How to Instill Compassion and Servanthood in Your Children

Ephesians 6:7 says “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord and not men.   However, just telling our children to serve others isn’t enough. We need to model compassion for others to our children.

How can we, as parents, grandparents, teachers, and youth leaders, make the application for our children from the physical act of service to the motive we need to have?

Our motive must be for Jesus and not ourselves. Matthew 6:3 says “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing…” Explaining to our children that we help others, not so we can brag about it, but so that we can honor Jesus is a great step in explaining this passage.

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1. Remind our children to put others first in a me-first society. Teaching our children (and modeling it through our own behavior) to put others before ourselves can be a daunting task.

I’ll never forget when my girls were toddlers and I had split a cookie in half (inadvertently, one piece ended up slightly larger than the other) and told them to each choose a piece. I watched from afar to see how things would unfold. My oldest, Sunshine, told my youngest, Doodle, “It’s important that the person who picks first should pick the smallest.” I grinned. Sunshine was getting it!

A moment later, my smile faded as I listened to the rest of Sunshine’s rationale.  “And, Doodle, you can pick first.”

“I’m supposed to pick the smaller piece,” said Doodle.

“Yes you are,” agreed Sunshine, with a glint in her eye.

I watched as Doodle picked the smaller piece, leaving the larger piece for Sunshine, who  knew how to manipulate the system!

Our job is to continue to impress the importance of putting others first on our children, even when they don’t “get it” the first, second or one-hundredth time!

Fast forward to many years later. Sunshine is now one of the most generous and giving people I know. She is the first to give assistance, even without being asked, and the first to share what she has with others.

2.  Hone in on each child’s unique personality and their God-given gifts. Each child has their own unique personality and will each have different ideas of what types of service projects they would like to undertake. In addition, they each have their own spiritual gifts.

Doodle has a heart for world missions and decided at age five that she wants to be a missionary to Haiti. She has never once wavered from that goal.

haiti

Sunshine has a deep love and devotion for younger children and has already been a mentor and childcare worker at our church, a VBS teacher, and a soccer coach.

Discover your child’s gift and passion. Discuss with them and ask if they could help one person in this world, who would it be? And what type of help would they want to provide? Some children have a heart for animals; some have a heart for those who are terminally ill. Still others have a heart that breaks for those in orphanages or foster care.

3. It’s never too early to start our children on the path of serving and blessing others. We started our children serving others when they were babies and would accompany us to the nursing homes. Although they don’t recall the details of those days, my husband and I were still cementing within our children a permanent foundation of following Jesus’ command to love their neighbor.

5. Pray as a family that God would place someone in your family’s path – someone who needs help. Allow each child their turn to pray for this important topic.

6. Pray for those in your neighborhood. Each month, we choose two families in our neighborhood to pray for. We have also gone on walks and runs in our neighborhood and prayed for the people who live in each house.

neighborhood

 Serving others fosters Christian fellowship both within your own family and with your neighbors – it unites families and brings us closer to God and each other.

For more ideas, including “Up for Discussion” questions at the end of each chapter to help families look deeper into the reasons behind each activity, check out 77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference.

77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference: Ideas and Activities for Serving Others

quick and easy delicious crock-pot chili (gluten free)

We’ve had extremely cold weather this year, so what better meal than a crock pot of chili? Here’s the quick and easy directions for a delicious dinner of crock-pot chili – one of our personal family favorites:

chiliThe night before: wash, then soak 2 1/2 cups of pinto beans according to directions on package. If you forget to soak them the night before, no problem. Simply wash the beans, then boil them until softened the day of the meal.

Brown a package of hamburger meat.

Combine the hamburger meat and the softened pinto beans in the crock pot. Add two cans of Hunt’s Dinner Starters seasoned Tomato Sauce for Chili.

Add two cans of water and stir.

Turn your crock-pot to low and let simmer throughout the day, stirring on occasion.

For side dishes: fresh spinach or tossed salad and homemade cornbread. 🙂

Enjoy!

*Note: Since my husband is Celiac, this is a safe meal for him. At the time of this posting, my research concluded that Hunt’s Dinner Starters Seasoned Tomato Sauce for Chili was gluten free. If you have a food allergy, always double check the label and call the company (or find their website online) to determine if the product is gluten free.

We use The Cravings Place Grandma’s Unsweetened Cornbread Mix (gluten free, wheat free, nut free, dairy free) for the cornbread. We add honey to the mix (per package directions) to sweeten.

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Tweetables

Quick and easy delicious gluten free crock-pot chili recipe (click to tweet)

Perfect dinner idea for a cold day! (click to tweet)

What’s for dinner? (click to tweet)

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Thankful for the small things…

Penny Zeller, Christian Author

It’s hard to believe that another Thankgiving is here!  As I reflect on the past year, I think of the many things I am thankful for – Jesus Christ as my Savior, my husband, my children, extended family, friends, and health. Sometimes, though, we only think of the big things we are thankful for, like those things I mentioned above.

What about the seemingly small things we are thankful for that we sometimes overlook? Below are a few that came to my mind in no particular order:

  •  I’m thankful for water. According to an article titled World Water Day: A Billion People Worldwide Lack Safe Drinking Water “More than a billion people—almost one-fifth of the world’s population—lack access to safe drinking water.” How many times do we go to the faucet and grab a glass of water without giving it a second thought?
  • I’m thankful I can breathe.  According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, “Approximately 34.1 million Americans have been diagnosed with asthma by a health professional during their lifetime.” My husband and youngest daughter are included in those statistics. How many times do we take it for granted that we can take that a breath?
  • I’m thankful for the ability to read. While doing research for 77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference, I discovered that “by age 17, only 1 in 17 seventeen-year-olds can read and gain information from specialized text” according to the National Institute for Literacy. Taking this statistic into account, there are a high number of people who cannot read. Yet, I read things everyday and don’t give it a second thought that some people don’t have that ability.
  • I’m thankful for those who risk their lives each day to bring the Good News to those around the world. We in the United States face minimal persecution when it comes to sharing our love for Jesus. Our missionaries in other nations are not so fortunate. I read The Voice of the Martyrs and my eyes were opened to the sacrifices our Christian brothers and sisters make everyday to share the hope of eternal life with the lost around the world.
  • I’m thankful for food to eat. A couple of years ago, my husband and I were both diagnosed with multiple food allergies. It has been a challenge to find things to eat.  Yet, so many people in the U.S. and in the world have no food to eat – AT ALL. They would love to only have allergies to a handful of foods  – if they still had food to eat. chili
  • I’m thankful I haven’t been involved in a devastating hurricane, earthquake, or tornado. This past year, we suffered damage to our home and vehicles during a severe hail storm. When we returned home from our vacation, our yard looked as though it had suffered a major catastrophe. Tree limbs were everywhere, our garden was ruined, the new siding on our house destroyed, and our SUV totaled.

A few days later, our church was seeking volunteers to assist with the devastation caused by the deadly Oklahoma City area tornado. As our family discussed being a part of this outreach, I was overcome with gratefulness and humbleness that it was only a relatively minor hailstorm we were dealing with and not a horrific storm where lives had been lost.

  • I’m thankful for dirty dishes. Yes, you heard me right. I know, most people wouldn’t say “thanks” for the sinkful of food-corroded crusty dishes from last night’s dinner. However, I am thankful because if I didn’t have those dirty dishes, I wouldn’t have had food to feed my family. Same goes for dirty laundry. While it may not be my favorite task, I’m thankful we have clothes to wear, and therefore, clothes that get dirty.
  • I’m thankful for my church family. Sometimes I forget how blessed I am to belong to the Body of Christ and how thankful I am that I can walk through the doors of my church and learn about the Lord and share fellowship with other believers.
  • I’m thankful I can see and hear. As I sit typing this, my kiddos are in the living room playing a game with their dad. Thank You, Father, that I can hear their giggles! I’m thankful for sight too – the snowcapped mountains in the distance and the puffy white clouds in the sky. I’m also thankful that the Lord opened my eyes to see my need for Him! snow capped mountains

That’s a shortened version of “small” things I’m thankful for. As I look back on my list, I realize they’re not “small” things at all, but big and important things.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

What if for one day, we loved as Jesus did?

Penny Zeller, Christian Author
What if for one day, we loved as Jesus did? I mean, truly loved as Jesus did. Not say we will, not pretend to, but really, truly focus on putting another person’s needs ahead of our own?

Can you imagine how we could change the world one person at a time?

And what if it became a habit?

Allow me to share a story with you about my friend Donna. Donna has rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, back problems, and a host of other health ailments. However, this doesn’t stop her from tirelessly serving others and showing each person she encounters the love of Christ in action.

thread-spool-1378256-mCase in point: Donna is often babysitting her grandchildren while her daughter and son-in-law struggle to make ends meet. Donna also teaches sewing classes to homeschool students, volunteers at church, cares for her mother who has dementia, and assists her niece, who has been hospitalized on numerous occasions with a severe neurological disorder.

I’ve never once heard Donna complain.

Add to that, the fact that a mutual friend was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer and Donna came quickly to her aid.

One of the requests of our friend with cancer was that the precious words she’d written would be put into book form before our friend passed away. Donna quickly took care of our friend’s request, even though she was busy with other items, including upcoming medical tests for which she had to prepare.

This didn’t stop Donna.

reading-book-1368361-mDonna went to the local office supply store with our friend’s words. She knew time was of the essence. Our friend wasn’t expected to live much longer and her dream of seeing her words in book print became Donna’s goal.

Donna achieved her goal and was able to present the book to our friend.

Jesus tells His disciples in Matthew 20:28, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve…” saint-matthew-1336079-m

When I watch Donna, I get a glimpse into what it means to be Christlike and to really truly serve as Jesus did. And not only that, but as an avid prayer warrior, there’s not a day that passes that Donna doesn’t intercede on behalf of others.

I know, because I’ve been blessed to be the recipient of her prayers on a couple of occasions.

So, what if for one day, we loved as Jesus did? What if we set out to bless someone else without the expectation of ever receiving anything in return?

1113096_give_meWhat if everyday, we strove to put others first and didn’t expect to be served, but to instead serve, just as Jesus did?

What a difference we could make!

If you’re looking for ways to enlist your family in making a difference in the lives of others, please check out my book 77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference: Ideas and Activities for Serving Others.

Book Giveaway and Guest Post by Author Eva Piper!

Penny Zeller, Christian Author

Eva-Piper-BookI am honored to have Eva Piper as my guest this week! Eva is the author of the new book A Walk Through the Dark. Below is the blurb:

One day Eva Piper was an elementary school teacher, the mother of three, the beloved wife of a strong, protective husband.

The next day she stood at the bedside of a broken man who could do nothing but moan in agony and turn his head away from her.

Later she would learn that he had died and actually experienced heaven before being prayed back to life—a true miracle. Don Piper’s testimony, told in the New York Times bestseller 90 Minutes in Heaven, would one day bring hope to thousands. But all that was in the future. Despite family and friends who kept vigil with her, Eva Piper found herself essentially alone. Walking in the dark. And she had always hated the dark.

Though it parallels that of her husband, Eva Piper’s account is quite different from his. It takes readers not to heavenly places but through a very earthly maze of hospital corridors, insurance forms, tiring commutes from home to workplace and hospital, and lonely hours of waiting and worrying. This is the story of a woman learning, step by darkened step, to go places she never thought she could go and growing into a person she never thought she could be. Packed with hard-earned wisdom about what it means to be a caregiver, to open yourself to the care of others, and to rest in God’s provision, this book provides a dependable source of light to help you walk through the dark.

Eva has graciously offered to give away an ARC copy of A Walk Through the Dark to one of my readers! You won’t want to miss reading this touching book that shows how God is there for us even in the hardest of times.

All of the details about winning are at the end of this post. But for now, let’s join Eva for her guest post “For Better or Worse.”

“For Better Or Worse”

“Do you take this woman/ man to be your lawfully wedded wife/husband?  For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health ‘til death do you part?”

Many young couples have stood in marriage ceremonies across the world and romantically answered “I do.” Fifteen years before Don’s accident we stood at the front of Barksdale Baptist Church with family and friends looking on as we uttered those words “I do”. I must admit that as a young bride I had no idea how my promise would be tested in the years to come. No bride or groom wants to think anything troublesome will come their way. Standing there in front of the altar I was filled with marriage giddiness. I was marrying the most 1386177_wedding_ringshandsome, intelligent, strong Christian man I had ever met. It was a girl’s dream come true.

Shortly after our fifteenth wedding anniversary, I was standing beside a hospital bed looking at a man I could scarcely recognize. His physical appearance had changed after numerous surgeries to piece him back together after being hit head-on by an 18 wheeler which left him encased in metal frames on his left leg and arm in an attempt to repair broken and lost bone. Those were changes I could pass over and still see the man I loved. No, it wasn’t his physical change that disturbed me, it was the change in his personality that was difficult to understand and accept. For weeks following Don’s accident he plunged into a deep depression, one where he wouldn’t speak to me, where the only response I could get was a grunt or single syllable monotone answers. There was no joy, no willingness to get better, no appreciation, nothing. It was like talking to a zombie. As his wife I couldn’t understand why he was not rejoicing in the fact he had survived a horrific wreck followed by medical complications. It didn’t seem like he cared about anything or anyone.

One evening about mid-February I arrived at St. Luke’s Hospital after teaching school. I had a book bag on my arm filled with papers to grade, lesson plans to write, and thank-you notes to send. I stood outside his room for a moment, pasted on my Suzy Sunshine smile, and walked in. As usual I got no response when I entered. The rest of the evening I spent working through the items in my bag and finished before visiting hours were over. Though I typically stayed until the very last minute that evening I decided to head home early. I was exhausted on all levels…physically, emotionally, 1031747_hospitalmentally, and even spiritually. The thought of getting home early, taking a long, hot shower, and then heading to bed sounded like a wonderful escape. I began to gather my things and head toward the door. As I reached for the handle I turned and said, “Guess I’ll head home. See you tomorrow. Love you.” His grunt of response hit me hard. I turned, dropped my book bag, marched over to the foot of his bed and let him have it.

“Why are you acting like this? Aren’t you glad to be alive and here with our kids, with me? Don’t you love me anymore? You are so mean, mean to me , mean to our children, mean to anyone who comes to see you. What’s wrong with you/”

I couldn’t believe I was saying those things but I couldn’t seem to stop myself. All my frustrations came to a boiling point in the moment between the door and the foot of his bed. Seeing my bag on the floor I reached for it ready to storm out the door, that’s when I noticed Don’s face in the large, wall mirror next to his bed. Tears were streaming down his face and his chest was heaving in heavy sobs. Instantly I was at his side, trying my best to put my arms around him, in and through all the metal, saying over and over “It’s Ok, things will be alright, I’m here.We’ll make it through this. Don’t worry. ”

Often I’d put my arms around our children to soothe hurts and pain, now I was doing that for my husband. God took that opportunity to teach me a great lesson.

“God loves us even in all our ugliness. I needed to see Don through God’s eyes.” I stood there holding Don and realized for the first time how hard this was for him. How much pain he was going through and how that 1356536_cross_with_shadow_1had to affect his state of mind. I knew then that we were living through a ‘worse’ time but that God had used it to bond us more tightly together.

It is a blessing I am forever thankful for.

About Eva Piper:

Eva Piper is a speaker and author with a unique insight into the trials of heartache and the triumph of overcoming. The wife of best-selling author Don Piper, Eva was the glue that held her broken husband and her family together. Don’s story, recounted in the New York Times bestseller, 90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Life and Death, is Eva’s story too. A teacher of 34 years, she and Don now live in Pasadena, Texas. Visit http://evapiper.com/ to reserve your copy today!

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And now, for a chance to win a copy of A Walk Through the Dark! All you have to do is leave a comment for a chance to win. Your comment can pertain to anything and here is an idea: When was a time when you felt Jesus’ presence – a difficult time when you felt alone, but knew you could rely on the Lord to see you through? A time when the words of Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength an everpresent help in trouble rang true?

The fine print: sorry, but this giveaway is open to residents of the United States only. A winner will be chosen at random using random.org and confirmed subscribers will receive two entries. The giveaway ends August 18, 2013.

**If you enjoyed this post, please share it on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest by clicking on one of the handy-dandy little buttons below – thank you SOOOOOOOO much for sharing!**

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5 fun summer activities for kids

Penny Zeller, Christian Author

Need some fun way to keep your kids busy this summer? Here are five fab ideas…

888698_my_new_bicycle1. Spend time outside doing some physical activity.

Summer is our favorite season and it seems to go by in a flash. Encourage your children to get plenty of physical activity by riding their bikes, swimming, playing in the yard or the playground, shooting some hoops, or playing catch…and be sure to join them. One of our favorite activities as a family is to go on bike rides. This is an excellent cardiovascular activity and the benefits of exercise for our children (and parents too!) are endless.

2. Show some creativity. 

In the shade on the patio, we have a large table that my children enjoy doing a variety of creative art projects. One of my children’s favorite things to do is to create things with playdough. Homemade or store-bought clay can be used. (I found some great recipes for homemade clay/playdough here).  Include a variety of cups, containers, and other things that can make “imprints” on the clay or that can be used to build things.

Another fun creative idea is painting rocks. Again, our large table on the patio comes to good use. Draping a disposable tablecloth from the Dollar Store, my kids have free reign to decorate the rocks they have found along the road during a “rock hunt” or in our someday-to-be-finished rock garden. Encourage your children to paint faces,  create animals, or include stripes or polka-dots. Then be sure to display their creative artwork!

3. Learn and have fun at the same time.

Every year on Mother’s Day, my family takes me to the local nursery where I pick out a variety of plants to plant in my flower pots. Not only am I treated to the local nursery, but I am also blessed with three very good Picture 051helpers. Our children each have their own containers that they pick out flowers for and plant their own flowers.

This year, we also added two raised gardens – one for each child. In these gardens, Doodle and Sunshine planted peas, tomatoes, green beans, lettuce, and spinach. Each day, they water their flowers and their gardens, and they also keep them weeded. In addition, Doodle has her own strawberry patch.

Planting and caring for those plants is a wonderful way to help your child not only have fun, but also learn about plants and gain responsibility. Conduct “research” with your children as to how plants grow and the amazing work God does to allow us the beauty of flowers and the benefits of a garden.

4. Be a blessing to others. During our above-mentioned annual trip to the nursery,  we also purchase plants for someone else. Doodle and Sunshine then plant the plants in containers and deliver them. This year, we chose an elderly widow. Sunshine dedicated her summer to, not only watering the flowers she and Doodle 77 Waysplanted for the widow, but also to water and care for the widow’s entire flower garden. Encourage your children to choose an activity that will serve and bless others this summer. For some great ideas on how to serve others, check out my book 77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference: Ideas and Activities for Serving Others.

5.  Connect with others.

I often joke with my kids that playdates aren’t just for kids! We moms love to connect with other moms, so why not set up a playdate at a local playground and invite some friends? Summer is a busy time, so some won’t be able to make it, but enjoy the company of those who can and encourage your children to connect with their friends they probably already miss.

I am a firm believer in having some scheduled fun time, but 449238_playground_kids_4also some time for children to use their creative imaginations and do a lot of completely unscheduled times of play – some “downtime” so to speak, so be sure to include that in your children’s summer agenda as well.

What are some activities your children love partaking in during the summer months?

 


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6 must-haves for your next camping adventure

Penny Zeller, Christian Author

camp trailer - 1It’s that time of year again! Time for packing up the camper, loading the tent, or heading to the family cabin for a camping adventure. Our family loves outdoor activities, and camping is one of our all-time favorites.

So…before you head to the mountains with your family, here are 6 must-haves our family has discovered to be helpful on camping trips:

Make Life Easier.

We love the $1 plastic tablecloths found at the Dollar Store. The rectangle ones fit perfectly on the campground tables and when we’re finished, we toss them. I stock up each year at the beginning of summer, and the kids love picking out a variety of colors, and we always inevitably include the “Happy Birthday” tablecloth just for fun.

Another great idea is what our family calls “the umbrellas.” These plate-size mesh net contraptions pop up to surround a plate of food and protect it from flies, wasps, mosquitoes, and other bugs. We like Coghlan’s Food Cover, which can be folded down when not in use.

A pop-up trash can is one of the best investments for camping we’ve made. We are sure to cover it properly each evening (to prevent bears from visiting our campground). We like the Stansport Collapsible Campsite Carry-All Trash Can.

Remember to pack a thin rope or strong string and some good old-fashioned wood clothespins for times when you need to dry out towels from a swim in the lake or wet clothes from being caught in an unexpected rainstorm.

Remember the Treats.658628_smores_3

Camping just isn’t camping without Smores. Marshmallows also double for those cool crisp mornings when a cup of hot chocolate is on the menu. We also pack carrot and celery sticks, watermelon, hot dogs (to roast over the fire), and our family favorite, homemade gluten free no-bake cookies. The recipe for these cookies (which can also be modified for those without gluten and dairy allergies) can be found in my post Gluten Free Delicious No Bake Cookies.

Have some fun.

Our family loves games and what better place to play a few board or card games than around the campfire? Some of our favorites include Uno, Old Maid, Farkle, K-9 capers, and In a Pickle. For a listing of family games, be sure to check out my Awesome Games for Family Game Night.

Do some exploring.

181991_indian_paintbrushOur family always takes to exploring when we camp. Birds and flowers are among the two things we enjoy learning about the most. Purchase (or borrow from your local library) a guidebook. Some examples include Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest by Phyllis Gustafson and Mark Turner; Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide by Lawrence Newcomb and Gordon Morrison; and Peterson Field Guide to Birds in North America by Roger Tory Peterson and Lee Allan Peterson.

Remember Safety.

Don’t forget the sunscreen. If you have sensitive skin, a great sunscreen to try is Vanicream for Sensitive Skin.

Remember the bug spray. Not only are mosquitoes lurking about in the mountains, but so also are ticks. The CDC has some helpful suggestions for avoiding ticks on their website as well as what to do if you find a tick on your body. Coghlan’s Tick Remover is an effective tool for removing ticks on both people and pets.

Keep a first aid kit nearby. Adhesive bandages, peroxide, Neosporin, and Benadryl (for allergic reactions) are some of the items you should include. The American Red Cross has a comprehensive list on their website.  878051_first_aid_kit

An important thing to note is that since latex allergies have become more prevalent (as many as “perhaps one in every 1,000 people” according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation)  it’s a wise idea to include some latex-free adhesive bandages in your first aid kit. We use Curad ® Sensitive Skin LatexFree bandages.

Purchase a snakebite kit and bear spray. It’s always a good idea to be prepared!

Also, don’t forget to bring along a bucket for water to put out your campfire.

And lastly, a few important items…

A few more things to add to your list include a camera (for capturing those memories), a rainproof plastic poncho, individually-wrapped hand wipes (for when there’s no water), and roasting sticks for the aforementioned hot dogs and marshmallows.

1061488_yosemite_park_2I’d love to hear your must-have ideas for your next camping adventure!

For more marriage and family posts. click on the Marriage/Family image at the top of this post. 🙂