Need a family devotion to help your kids understand God’s love for them? This devotion is simple, brief, and meaningful, and is appropriate for kids of all ages. (Confession: I totally cried when we did this devo with our kids. )
Start by reading Zephaniah 3:17—I love the old NIV version (NIV 1984):
“The Lord your God is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with his love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”
(This is where the waterworks started for me. I just can’t. It’s so beautiful. So overwhelming. So comforting. It sets my heart to singing every time.)
Explain to your kids that God takes great delight in them. Just as Mommy and Daddy put them to bed each night with a song, so God, our Heavenly Father, sings over us. Then tell each child one thing in their character that brings God great delight—be as specific as you can be. For example, with our four kids, we shared:
Kid 1: Your compassion, kindness, and concern for others’ feelings
Kid 2: Your soft heart towards God, the way you are always seeking Him
Kid 3: Your amazing patience and kindness to your younger sister, even when she drives you crazy
Kid 4: Your deeply loving spirit—you give affection so generously to others, and make us all feel loved
Talks like this are a wonderful way to encourage our kids and show them the height and depth and breadth of God’s astounding, mind-boggling, often undeserved but absolutely devoted love for all of us.
This image is taken from my new Instagram account, @elizabethlaingthompson, where I am posting scriptures, encouragement, and humorous thoughts to help you through your waiting journey. I’d love to see you on Instagram!
I sink into my friend’s cushy new loveseat with a grateful sigh. The eight-hour drive from my house to hers has left me exhausted—I don’t have great stamina as a long-distance driver, but today Cassidy and I have braved the long country roads between North Carolina and Georgia, just the two of us, for the rare treat of a mother-daughter trip to visit friends.
With a smile, my friend’s husband presses a steaming mug of tea into my hands. “You are the best,” I say. I’ve been looking forward to this moment for at least 200 miles. For a few seconds I cradle the mug, savoring the way warmth travels through the pottery, into my fingertips, down into my soul. My friend asks what I want to do tomorrow. I lift the mug to my lips, gathering thoughts.
In the silence between sentences there’s a strange little crunching sound, and suddenly I’m burning. Scalding tea is everywhere—drenching my hands, spattering my arms, filling my lap, soaking the chair. I yelp and leap to my feet. In one bleeding hand I hold the mug’s handle; in the other, I’m struggling to balance the now half-empty mug. My friend and her husband come running, our daughters come running. The next moments are a blur of shrieks and towels, Band-aids and blood. When pain stops and chaos settles, we register what happened: The handle separated from the mug, sending tea flying and pottery shards digging into my hand.
Eventually, when we realize that there’s more blood than actual injury, that my thick winter clothes have protected me from true burns, and that my friend’s forethought in stain-protecting her new loveseat has kept the furniture from total ruin, we dissolve into relieved and shaky laughter.
I change clothes, we clean up, and after a while we are back where we started, settling in to chat on the couches. My friend’s husband brews a fresh cup of tea and holds it out to me. For a heartbeat I hesitate—a hitch of anxiety stops my breath—and I slowly reach out to take the mug. As my friend launches into a story, I find myself holding the mug tighter than I should be, pressing it hard with both hands. I cast nervous glances at the handle, studying its width, weighing its strength. In spite of the rational voice in my head insisting, “This is so stupid, hold the dang handle,” I can’t bring myself to let go and hold the mug by the handle.
The next morning, my friend offers me coffee. Coffee, beloved coffee, sweet nectar of life. She pours me a cup and holds out the mug. A fluttering starts in my gut, and I find myself swallowing hard as I reach for the mug with my still-bandaged hand. She looks at me funny. “Are you okay?”
I nod my head yes. Shake my head no. Set the mug down. Confess with a laugh, “I’m afraid to pick up the mug!”
My friend laughs, then looks slightly wounded. “You don’t trust my mugs anymore.”
“Not just your mugs,” I say with a guilty grin. “Mugs in general.”
She assures me that the mug in question has been a reliable vessel for coffee and tea for many years and is worthy of my full trust. She holds it herself, waves it around to prove it. We laugh, I pretend to feel better, and I pick up the cup, hoping she doesn’t notice that I’m using two hands, unwilling to risk the handle.
Several days later I return home—home to my own coffee pot, my own familiar mugs, dear companions who have faithfully served me coffee and tea during countless prayer times, phone calls, and writing sessions. But even so, when I pour my first cup of coffee into my favorite mug, the “Our nest is blessed” bird mug my mom gave me, I find myself staring it down with eyes narrowed, suspicion rising: Are you going to fail me too? Are you hiding some unseen crack, some weakness in construction? We’ve lived a lot of life together, shared a lot of coffee and good memories, but now…I’ve been burned. I’ve changed—have you changed too?
Over the next few weeks, I keep drinking coffee, but always with two hands, just in case. It’s weeks before I can lift a mug without pause. Months before I can enjoy coffee or tea without a twinge of bad memory pulsing somewhere in the back of my mind. The two-hand mug-hold becomes an unconscious habit. Even though logic tells me I’m being ridiculous—In all your thirty-eight years you have had three million positive experiences drinking from mugs, and only one bad experience with mug malfunction—the odds are totally in your favor!—every time I lift a mug, some primal instinct rises up to defend me. Keep me from getting burned. Keep me using two hands.
After a while it occurs to me that I’ve done this before, only not with mugs. With people. With God. Most of my life has been filled with love, kindness, grace—ten million wondrous memories—but along the way I’ve also experienced a few shocking hurts and disappointments. Wounds I didn’t see coming, from places I’d never doubted.
Sometimes things break on us—not just mugs, but things that really matter: Health. Friendships. Finances. Churches. Parents. Marriages. Families.
Things we thought were a given, things we trusted without question—my mug will always hold my coffee, my friend will always be there, my church will always be a safe place, my parents will always love each other, my guy will always be faithful, my body will always be healthy—suddenly let us down. They break without warning. One minute we’re sitting on a couch with a friend—happy place, familiar comfort—the next we’re gasping in pain, world spinning, and it’s ages before we can even register what happened.
When we’re surprised like that, when things break on us, sometimes we break too. Trust, overcome by fear. Love, overshadowed by suspicion. Openness, overwhelmed by hurt.
We don’t want to be broken. We’re not doing it on purpose. Logically, we tell ourselves that our newfound fear makes no sense—in neutral moments we even laugh at ourselves—but every time we face situations that somehow remind us of that one terrible time, the fear comes roaring to the surface. Taking over. Commandeering our thoughts, our feelings, our reactions. Making us curl into a self-protective cocoon where we can hide safe inside, safe all alone.
Fear does this to us even when we are no longer in any real danger—it takes over based on mere memory. We may be sitting safe and snug—different chair, different day, different mug—but if our mind flashes back to the one bad experience with the one evil mug, suddenly we’re right back there, in danger, and it’s time to flee. Or time to fight.
We who used to live free, love hard… we become guarded. Protective. Isolated. Maybe angry.
We’re not crazy, not making it up. Some broken things, like my friend’s mug, are beyond hope and have to be thrown away—those losses hurt beyond words.
Other broken things can be repaired, but repair is scary. Imperfect. Risky. Even if we manage to glue the handle back onto a mug, we still see a seam. A scar. A weak place that, if we prod it and test it too much, we fear could break again.
Friend, if things or people have broken on you, if you yourself are broken, these words are for you. You feel pain, suspicion, fear—so do I. I’ve felt it in my own ways, through the lens of my own experiences, my own people. I understand the deep, visceral spring of pain that gives fear such ferocity, such control, such long life.
I understand it, but from one burned person to another, one broken soul to another, I’m asking you to let it go. I’m telling you that with God, through Christ, it’s possible.
I’m asking you to take away the power of fear—fear that warps and cripples and binds—by seeing through it. By seeing it for what it is: a fear that wants to distort the way you view people, do church, trust God, experience life, face the future. It is a hurt that wants to haunt you. An injury that seeks to change you. A wound that wants to keep wounding you—not with realities from the present, but with memories from the past. A fear that wants you to live trapped in an invisible box of your own creation. The wounds may have come from others, but the box you built and locked yourself—and friend, you still hold the key.
I’m asking you to use that key. Climb out of that box. Stand free in God’s sun.
I pray you find a way to heal. To forgive, as many times as it takes. To give your hurt and fear to God, and to trust that his hands are big enough to hold them. That Christ’s blood is thick enough, pure enough, to cover all and wash it clean.
I pray you find courage to breathe through the panic, reject the memories, reach out your hand, and take hold of that mug once more. To lift it up and drink it down.
I’m proud to say I have learned to trust mugs again. (Now there’s a sentence that’s never been said before!) It helped when I realized: Sometimes memory distorts reality. Inflates horror. Exaggerates pain. Over time, my memory of the heat and pain became more powerful, more dramatic, than the actual incident itself. Yes, for a few seconds I was uncomfortable, but I wasn’t truly burned! The cuts were mere scratches! Some experiences truly are as awful as we remember, but other memories grow over time—taking on heavier weight, accruing pain like interest.
Either way, isn’t it time to reach out and hold that handle again? The first few times will be the hardest. You might find your heart racing, palms sweating, head spinning. But with time it will get easier. And easier. Still easier. The more often you push through, the more quickly you will overcome. You may relapse every so often, but with focused effort you can keep moving forward. You can enjoy the things, the people, you used to enjoy. You can trust again. Love again. Live again. Yes, you may bear scars, but they need not define you.
My two-hand mug-holding habit took a while to unlearn, but over time, I have. (Mostly.) I now hold mugs with one hand, by the handle, the way normal, non-mug-ophobic people do, and most days I don’t think twice about it. (Although honestly, now that I’m writing this, I’m starting to feel a bit twitchy. Don’t judge me if you catch me relapsing with the two-hand hold for a few weeks.)
Now I’m grateful for the lessons the broken mug taught me:
Most of the time, life is wonderful. But sometimes life hurts. People disappoint. Things change. Mugs break.
But you and I… we can move forward. With God’s help, we can heal. Forgive. In time, maybe we can even forget.
And you know what? Even if we can’t forget, even if we still bear the scar, it’s worth it, reaching out and taking hold of that mug once more. Scar or no scar, bad memories and all, the tea, the coffee, this life… they taste as good as ever.
Want a simple family devotion that will build your kids’ faith (and your own)? This makes a great family devotion for Christmastime, but of course you could do it any time of year.
Start by reading Isaiah 9:1–7. (Try reading the New Living Translation version if you have younger kids—it’s a little easier to understand. I’m quoting the NIV here.)
Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—
The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
when dividing the plunder.
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.
You might need to take a minute to give a BRIEF, basic, broad-strokes explanation of the meaning of the passage after you read—it is an earful. Our 9- and 10-year-olds grasped it pretty well on their own; the 8-year-old was a little confused and needed more explanation. We explained that this was written during a difficult time for the nation of Israel, and it was meant to comfort God’s people by predicting the end of fighting and war. This passage tells us that a special child would be born to save God’s people.
Once you’ve clarified the meaning, ask:Who do you think this scripture is talking about? Our kids immediately shouted, “Jesus!” From there, ask why they think it’s about Jesus. (Details you can draw out: Jesus came from Galilee; he was a special child even when he was first born; he brought us peace with God through his death; he now reigns over God’s kingdom. If your kids’ attention span allows it (ours didn’t!), you can briefly touch on how Jesus was a wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, and prince of peace.
Hold that thought…
Next read Isaiah 7:14:
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
Again, ask:Who is this talking about? Why do you think that? Take a few moments to draw out the connections in this verse to Jesus’ birth. Even if they don’t understand the word “virgin,” most kids already understand that Jesus’ mother, Mary, wasn’t married, and it was impossible for her to be pregnant, but she got pregnant anyway. Jesus’ birth was a miracle. Kids also understand that Jesus was a special baby from the beginning, and that his birth was a sign of God’s love for us.
Hold that thought again…
Then ask them:When do you think these passages in Isaiah were written—before or after Jesus was born?
Here’s the part where you blow their minds (and maybe your own, too): These words were written hundreds of years before Jesus was born! (Without getting too technical here, scholars date these chapters in Isaiah to somewhere between the 500s and 700s BC!) These passages are prophecies, telling us what God had planned for the future. Isn’t God amazing? He knows everything! He can plan things many, many years before they ever happen. Scriptures like this strengthen our faith in God, Jesus, and the Bible. They show us how powerful God is, and that the Bible is true.
Simple devotions like this are powerful because they expose our kids to basic apologetics, and give them strong, concrete evidence for their faith besides just “take my word for it; believe it because I tell you to.” Devotions like this also introduce kids to the Old Testament prophets, and help them make connections between all the different parts of God’s story.
If you try this devotion out with your family, I’d love to hear how it went! Feel free to post in the comments below!
You guys! Or as we say here in North Carolina, y’all!
My newest book, When God Says “Wait”: Navigating Life’s Detours and Delays Without Losing Your Faith, Your Friends, Or Your Mind, is now available for preorder! (Happy dance, happy dance, happy dance! Okay I should sit down. People in Starbucks are inching away from me.) I can’t wait to share this book with you. You can order it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and ChristianBook.com. Take your pick. 🙂 The book officially releases March 1, 2017, so unfortunately, you’ll have to—well, wait a bit before your copy arrives. But I hope you’ll feel it was worth the wait. Okay, I’ll stop being punny now.
Author Lysa TerKeurst has called writing a book “a sacred adventure with God,” and how true that is. Every day writing this book was a day spent in constant communion with God, asking him to fill me up and empty me out again. I’ve written books before, but this was a different experience. A spiritual rebirth. Exhausting and exhilarating, mind-blowing and life-changing. I will always look back on the experience of writing this book as a “before and after” moment in my life.
So what is When God Says “Wait” about?
Here’s a sneak peek at the summary from the back cover:
A job, a true love, a baby, a cure . . . We’re all waiting for something from God. And the place between His answers can feel like a wasteland where dreams—and faith—go to die. When we’re waiting, we wonder, “Why?”, “Why me?”, and “How long?”
But the truth? . . .
When God says, “Wait,” He doesn’t tell us for how long.
When God says, “Wait,” we face one of life’s greatest tests.
When God says, “Wait,” we have decisions to make.
When God says, “Wait,” we can control only two things: how we wait, and who we become along the way.
Author Elizabeth Laing Thompson invites you to walk alongside people of the Bible who had to wait on God . . . imperfect heroes like David, Miriam, Naomi, Sarah, Joseph, and others. Their stories will provide a roadmap for your own story, helping you navigate the painful, lonely territory of waiting, coming out on the other side with your faith, relationships, and sense of humor intact. They might even help you learn to enjoy the ride.
This book is about the journey of waiting, the space between answers, and the people we become while we live there. So what are we waiting for? Let’s get started.
If you’re super-dee-duper excited about this book, and you want to apply to be part of the book launch street team, please send me an email at alizzylife at gmail dot com. I’ll keep you posted as we put the team together!
Here again are the preorder links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, ChristianBook.com. (And if you’re wondering, YES, preorders are definitely helpful to authors, and to the book’s future. So if you plan to order the book anyway, I’m grateful if you go ahead and place your order now! 🙂 )
Sending you lots of love and heartfelt thanks for your prayers as I was writing.
Because we all have it. Maybe you experienced loss or hurt or abuse as a child; maybe you carry regrets from poor decisions you have made in the past. Sometimes our baggage can make us doubt ourselves as parents. We become tentative, insecure, inconsistent. We worry so much about hurting our kids—either by repeating mistakes other people have made with us or repeating our own mistakes—that we freeze up. Instead of leading our kids confidently, with a godly balance of firmness and grace, we hang back. We may become so afraid of coming on too strong that we back off altogether. And so our fear of hurting our kids becomes the very thing that hurts our kids! They are left feeling insecure, wondering why the boundary lines keep moving—or if they exist at all.
I don’t know what baggage you carry, but I hope you find encouragement from these Bible-based truths:
–Our children won’t get any other parents. We’re all they’ve got. Our kids need us—want us—to fill our God-given role.
–“Love each another deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). If we are generous with affection and encouragement, our kids will still feel loved and secure even when we make mistakes. Children are wonderfully forgiving people.
–God is the only perfect parent; the rest of us make mistakes.
–It’s better to parent imperfectly than not at all.
–Our weaknesses and regrets can become wonderful parenting tools, teaching our kids about forgiveness, grace, and salvation.
–Never underestimate the parenting power of two simple words: “I’m sorry.”
Hi! I'm Elizabeth, and Lizzy Life is all about clinging to Christ in the chaos of daily life. As a minister, speaker, and novelist (The Thirteenth Summer), I love finding humor in holiness, and hope in heartache. I live in North Carolina with my preacher husband and four loud children. I believe the recipe for a happy life is simple: laugh-cry daily, pray continually, caffeinate constantly. My next book, When God Says "Wait," releases from Barbour Publishing in March, 2017. READ MORE.
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When I think, "joy," I think, "Everything perfect. Everything going my way." But who am I kidding? When is life perfect? When does everything go our way? I'm working on drawing joy from small blessings, taking time to notice and thank God for even the smallest of gifts: Sidewalk chalk drawings. A call from a friend. And of course--always--a good cup of coffee (which means I get to be thankful at least five times a day--lucky me 😊). What small gifts are you thankful for today? ... See MoreSee Less