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5 Things Every Daughter Needs to Hear from Her Dad

June 1st, 2018 | No Comments | Posted in Encouragement
Girls…They’re wired a little differently than boys. Okay, they’re wired waydifferently than boys. If you have both in your family like ours does, you know that at times they can be as different as night and day. And as a result, your daughter needs to be loved differently than your boys. She needs a rock to lean on. She needs to possess your confidence in her and your verbal and physical affection towards her. She is tender and more fragile. And one of the greatest ways she interprets your love is through your words.

While boys feel love when you spend time being rough and tough or playing outside together, girls often interpret that same kind of love in different ways, like when you speak kindly to them, or just simply listen to them. Your words have the opportunity to give your daughter the wings to fly or crush her before she ever has a chance to get off the ground. Because of this, here are 5 things that you need to tell your daughter regularly.

  1. “You are beautiful inside and out.”

Every girl longs to know that she is beautiful. And she needs to hear it from her father. This reinforces what God already says about her, and meets a very real need that she has for validation in your eyes.

  1. “I love you so much.”

In addition to showing your love, your daughter loves to hear the words, “I love you.” And she needs to hear them often.

  1. “I believe in you.”

Girls have a lot of big dreams in their hearts, and your daughter can do just about anything she sets her mind to when she knows that you are fully behind her and cheering her on all the way. Let her know regularly that you believe in her dreams and goals and are so proud of her for reaching for them.

  1. “I’m so lucky to be your dad.”

Your job as a dad is to make your daughter feel like the luckiest girl in all of the world, and what better way to do it than to regularly remind her that you are the luckiest guy in all of the world. Because you are the one person who gets the privilege of being called her daddy.

  1. “What’s on your mind? Let’s talk.”

Girls are wired to talk. Dad’s need to learn to listen. And even better yet, Dads need to learn to initiate times of conversation and listening with their daughter. Take some time to step into her room at night and ask her what’s on her mind, or randomly take her out for a drink or a meal just so the two of you can talk. She’ll love you for it, and both of you will benefit from it.

Via: All Pro Dad

7 Ways Moms Should Cut Themselves Some Slack

April 1st, 2018 | No Comments | Posted in Encouragement
Hi there, Perfectionist Mom. We know you well. We know how hard you try to hit the mark in every area of life: mothering, your career, homemaking, and serving your community. And we know how upset you are when one of the balls you’re constantly juggling tumbles to the ground in the form of a missed deadline, a drive-through dinner, or a ten-day backlog of laundry. The fact is—you’re hard on yourself. A little bit too hard.

As moms, we often cut others slack when we know they’ve tried, even if the outcome isn’t ideal. Why can’t we do the same for ourselves? Perfectionist moms live in a prison where tiny hiccups feel like disasters. It’s time we gave ourselves the same grace we extend to others. Do you need to cut yourself some slack in the following 7 areas?

  1. Picture perfect homes

Repeat after me: the houses in the magazines (and the blogs) have been professionally styled for a photo shoot, and don’t look like that on a daily basis when real people are actually doing life in them. That home organization blogger? Her label maker may be her only friend. Moms can place a lot of pressure on ourselves to keep up a standard of domestic perfection that isn’t realistic. Chill out. It’s a place to live, not just a place to look at.

  1. Nutrition guilt

We all want our children to be healthy and know that good nutrition is key. But what we need to shoot for is a good overall picture, where the majority of your child’s meals are healthy and well-balanced. Beating yourself up because once a week you shoot through a drive-through between a myriad of practices and lessons just to be able to feed them something isn’t necessary. And every meal you cook doesn’t have to be a culinary triumph. Some nights were just made for mac and cheese, and we like it that way (so do your kids).

  1. The glamour gap

The media loves to laud celebrity moms and the way they make breezing around Manhattan and Beverly Hills with their adorable tots in tow look fashionable and effortless. We even drool over the super-fast pace at which famous moms get back into their skinny jeans after delivery. Hey, guess what? If you had a nanny, a personal trainer, a chef, and a stylist at your disposal, you could, too! Comparing yourself to those who have unlimited resources is a silly and defeating proposition. Out here in the real world, things take time. Strive to be healthy, and your best appearance will follow.

  1. Craft deficit

True confession: I am not a crafty person. I hate hot glue guns, felt, colored paper, pipe cleaners…you get the picture. And having children didn’t miraculously change this about me. I’d rather be reading, frankly. So when you’re looking at Pinterest and thinking, Am I really supposed to make groundhog cupcakes using fondant icing and Chiclets for groundhog teeth for my kid’s class for Groundhog Day??…the answer is no. I promise you, there’s some crafty mom in the class who’ll be ecstatic to pick up your slack, and will probably make matching construction paper groundhog hats. And that’s okay.

  1. “Mommy Wars” guilt

Whether you’ve chosen to pursue a full-time career, work part-time, work from home, or pour all of your energy into your parenting and homemaking, you really don’t owe the world an explanation. There are lots of factors that go into each family’s decision regarding work-life balance, and the only people you’re accountable to are your husband and children. So if your arrangement is one that all of you are happy with (even if it’s hard sometimes—because everything is hard sometimes), don’t waste your time fretting about the opinions of others.

  1. Volunteer avalanche

You’re child is a Girl Scout? Great, we need another troop leader! They need a fall festival chairman at the school—why don’t you take it on? You’d be great! Time for VBS at church—calling all moms! It’s great to pitch in around the community, and everyone should find some way to help out. But some moms believe that every need is their personal calling, and wind up drastically overloaded with volunteer work. It’s okay to say no sometimes! Only you know what other commitments you already have on your plate, and whether you can handle anything more. If you find it impossible to say “no” altogether, try starting with, “I can’t commit to that right now—maybe next year/season/semester.” Baby steps, mom.

  1. Parenting perfectionist

So you forgot to check your 3rd grader’s homework last night. Trust us, the world will not end. The kids watched a movie that had a scene in it you didn’t expect, even after reading the reviews. It’s unfortunate, but it happens. Even the most committed and faithful parents drop the ball every now and then. If you never do, you may be wound a tad too tight. Parenting is about doing your best at a job in which the target is constantly moving and the variables are constantly changing—and that’s hard for anyone. Do your best, learn from the mistakes, and move on.

Where do you need to cut yourself some slack? Leave us a comment!


10 Quick Brain Exercises You Can Do Right Now

April 1st, 2018 | No Comments | Posted in Encouragement

Add up the alphabet

Give the different letters of the alphabet the numerical values 1–26 (A=1, B=2, etc.). Try to think of words in which the sum of the letters is 40 (or 45, 50 etc). Only math geeks can figure out this crazy numbers riddle. Can you?

Study the phone bill

Take a look at your phone bill and try to recall to whom each phone call was made. If you rely on your cell-phone full-time now, look back at your recent call log and try to remember what you and the other person spoke about.

Mess with your mouse

Flip your computer mouse, so that moving the ball left and up makes the cursor move right and down. Or, work your non-dominant hand by plugging the mouse into the opposite side of the computer.


Try to recall the names of teachers or fellow students in your class at school. See if you can remember details such as what they wore or what kind of person they were. Next time, think about a past workplace or a street where you once lived. You will be surprised at how much you can remember.

Read upside down

Turn a book or a newspaper upside down. Read the page from the bottom to the top. Notice how much more effort is needed to make sense of the structure of sentences. Can you find the missing word in this tricky brain teaser?

Test your vocab

Write down as many words as you can starting with a certain letter of the alphabet in 2 minutes. Try letters such as M, T, and C or challenge yourself with O or Y.

Clock yourself

Concentrate on the second hand of a watch or clock for 1 minute. Now close your eyes and see if you can time a minute exactly. You might be surprised how off you are.

Take a new route

Driving, running, or biking the same way every day allows your brain to go on autopilot. Stimulate your mind by trying a new route. You’ll have to visualize the roads in your head, which activates to cortex and the hippocampus.

Memorize a picture

Look at a photo online and try to remember everything that appears in it. Cover the photo and list those things. Now look at the photo again and see how many you got correct. For example, can you find the robin hidden in this photo?

Eat with chopsticks

Similar to switching up your computer mouse, this one forces you to slow down and take in what’s happening. As a bonus, doing this will help you savor your food even more. An MIT professor called this ‘the hardest puzzle ever.‘ Can you solve it?

An Open Letter to Parents Whose Kids are Being Loud in Church

March 2nd, 2018 | No Comments | Posted in Encouragement
You are doing something really, really important. I know it’s not easy. I see you with your arms overflowing, and I know you came to church already tired. Parenting is tiring. Really tiring.

I watch you bounce and sway trying to keep the baby quiet, juggling the infant car seat and the diaper bag as you find a seat. I see you wince as your child cries. I see you anxiously pull things out of your bag of tricks to try to quiet them.

And I see you with your toddler and your preschooler. I watch you cringe when your little girl asks an innocent question in a voice that might not be an inside voice let alone a church whisper. I hear the exasperation in your voice as you beg your child to just sit, to be quiet, as you feel everyone’s eyes on you. Not everyone is looking, but I know it feels that way.

I know you’re wondering is this worth it? Why do I bother? I know you often leave church more exhausted than fulfilled. But what you are doing with your kids in church is so important.

When you are here, the church is filled with a joyful noise. When you are here, the Body of Christ is more fully present. When you are here, we are reminded that this worship thing we do isn’t about Bible study or personal, quiet contemplation but coming together to worship as a community where all are welcome, where we share in the Word and Sacrament together. When you are here, I have hope that these pews won’t be empty in 10 years when your kids are old enough to sit quietly and behave in worship. I know that they are learning how and why we worship now, before it’s too late. They are learning that worship is important.

I see them learning. In the midst of the cries, whines and giggles, in the midst of the crinkling of pretzel bags and the growing pile of crumbs, I see a little girl who insists on going two pews up to share peace with someone she’s never met. I hear a little boy slurping (quite loudly) every last drop of his communion wine out of the cup determined not to miss a drop of Jesus. I watch a child excitedly color a cross and point to the one in the front of the sanctuary. I hear the echos of Amens just a few seconds after the rest of the community says it together. I watch a boy just learning to read try to sound out the words in the worship book or count his way to Hymn 672. Even on weeks when I can’t see my own children learning because, well, it’s one of those mornings, I can see your children learning.

I know how hard it is to do what you’re doing, but I want you to know, it matters. It matters to me. It matters to my children to not be alone in the pew. It matters to the congregation to know that families care about faith, to see young people … and even on those weeks when you can’t see the little moments, it matters to your children.

It matters that they learn that worship is what we do as a community of faith, that everyone is welcome, that their worship matters. When we teach children that their worship matters, we teach them that they are enough right here and right now as members of the church community. They don’t need to wait until they can believe, pray or worship a certain way to be welcome here, and I know adults who are still looking to be shown that. It matters that children learn that they are an integral part of this church, that their prayers, their songs and even their badly timed (or perfectly timed depending on who you ask) cries and whines are a joyful noise because it means they are present. I know it’s hard, but thank you for what you do when you bring your children to church. Please know that your family—with all of its noise, struggle, commotion and joy—are not simply tolerated, you are a vital part of the community gathered in worship.

Adapted from:

This Man Hangs Christmas Lights for Families Who’ve Lost Loved Ones

December 12th, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Encouragement


After Stewart and Debbie Wilder lost their 17-year-old son, Cameron, to suicide in 2013, the last thing on their minds was decorating for the holiday season. ‘We haven’t put anything up in three years. It has all stayed boxed up,’ Debbie told KTVB in November 2016. ‘All of Cameron’s friends come home for Thanksgiving to visit their families, and we don’t have him.’

But in December 2016, the house was lit up like, well, Christmas, with strings of white bulbs cheerfully lining the roof and eaves. It wasn’t the Wilders who’d finally made the house twinkle, however. Instead it was a stranger, 30-year-old Carson Zickgraf, who hangs lights professionally through his business, CZ Enterprises LLC. The Treasure Valley, Idaho, man is on a mission to brighten the lives of families affected by suicide, especially during the difficult holiday season—and it works. ‘I started crying,’ Debbie says about seeing the lights for the first time. ‘It was really special.’ 

Zickgraf has been donatin his light-stringing services since 2015 and has decorated the houses of more than two dozen families so far. They are mostly strangers whom Zickgraf learns about from Not One More Suicide, a support group. When Zickgraf arrives at a home to hang lights, he’ll knock on the door to tell the family his plan, but if everyone is away, he’ll put up the lights as a surprise. At one of the surprise houses, he began to work without realizing the owner was home. When she discovered what Zickgraf and his crew were up to, she ran outside—and gave them all hugs.

Zickgraf started the project by chance. He was hanging lights on a client’s home when the owner mentioned that some neighbors were having a hard time that holiday season because their son had recently died by suicide. On the spot, Zickgraf had an epiphany. ‘I sent my crew there to decorate that house too,’ he says. The family was delighted.

Zickgraf realized that he’d found a kind of calling. In fact, he had two friends who had died by suicide, and he’d always wished he could ease the pain for their loved ones. Now, he’d found a way. ‘You can mow their lawn or take them for a meal, but you always wish you could do more,’ says Zickgraf. ‘There’s something special about Christmas lights. They warm the spirit.’

After he gets the names of families from Not One More Suicide, Zickgraf often hangs the lights himself with help from a friend, Sean Miner. When he sends his paid crew members to do the job, he doesn’t tell them the backstory out of respect for the family’s privacy, though the workers sometimes figure it out. ‘A few times when my employees have found out we were doing lights for suicide survivors, they stopped the clock and wouldn’t take pay.’

The lights go up around mid-November and are taken down after the New Year. Each job takes about an hour, though Zickgraf often prepares before arriving at a home. If he speaks to the family before starting, he asks what color lights the deceased would have liked. But when the job is a surprise, he takes the matter into his own experienced hands. He reads online memorials and obituaries to get a sense of the person, then picks the color he thinks would have pleased him or her. Zickgraf knows his efforts can’t completely lift the veil of grief from these families, but he can make the holidays a little cheerier. ‘I wish I had a bigger company so I could do more houses,’ he says.

5 Scientific Reasons to Attend Church

November 2nd, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Encouragement

Photo by LOFTFLOW/
While church offers obvious spiritual benefits, did you know that studies have found it’s good for your physical and mental health too? Here are a few reasons why.

About two in five Americans report going to worship services on a weekly basis. But church isn’t always the easiest commitment to make on an early Sunday morning. While church offers obvious spiritual benefits, did you know studies have found it’s good for your physical and mental health too? Here are five surprising benefits of attending church.

1. Going to church boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure and helps you live longer.

Tyler J. VanderWeele, an epidemiologist with the Harvard School of Public Health, conducted a studyof regular church-goers over two decades with his colleagues. He found that people who attend religious services at least once a week enjoy better blood pressure, healthier cardiovascular, immune and endocrine functions and less coronary artery disease than those who don’t attend at all. In addition, the risk of dying is 20 to 30 percent less in the 10 and a half years after they begin going to church regularly, the study found. “Something about the communal religious experience and participation matters,” as opposed to private spirituality or practice, VanderWeele wrote in USA Today. “Something powerful appears to take place there, and enhances health.”

2. Frequent churchgoers have a larger social circle and with more kinds of support than people who don’t attend.

That’s according to a study of attendees in North Carolina. Strong friendships and social support have a direct correlation with better health, writes T.M. Luhrmann, a Stanford anthropologist who has studied evangelical churches. And the support provided by church can be both emotional and practical. In a New York Times story, Luhrmann describes what happened at a weekly Bible study she attended: “One evening, a young woman in a group I joined began to cry. Her dentist had told her that she needed a $1,500 procedure, and she didn’t have the money,” she writes. “To my amazement, our small group—most of them students—simply covered the cost, by anonymous donation.”

3. People who go to services regularly are less likely to be depressed.

A survey of nearly 100,000 women over 50 who attended religious services found they were 56 percent more likely to have a positive outlook on life and 27 percent less likely to be depressed, according to a study in the Journal of Religion and Health. Eliezer Schnall, the study’s author and an associate professor at Yeshiva University in New York, writes that regular religious practice can help foster a “positive worldview, include calming rituals, and have other psychological and social benefits.” A separate study found regular churchgoers were five times less likely to commit suicide.

4. Teens who regularly attend church do better in school.

Photo by StockSnap/Pixabay
Researchers at the University of Iowa found that the GPA of teens who attend services on a weekly basis was .144 higher than those who never attended services, according to the study published in Sociological Quarterly. They studied students from seventh grade to seniors in high school.

The study identified several few factors that account for the academic boost, according to LiveScience. Churchgoing teens encounter adults of various ages who serve as role models and are more likely to talk with their friends’ parents. They also strike up friendships with kids who share similar values and are more likely to participate in extracurricular activities. But this only account for about half the effect.

“Surprisingly, the importance of religion to teens had very little impact on their educational outcomes,” Jennifer Glanville, a University of Iowa sociologist, noted. “That suggests that the act of attending church—the structure and the social aspects associated with it—could be more important to educational outcomes than the actual religion.”

5. Churchgoers are happier with their lives overall.

One study found that one-third of people who went to church every week and reported having close friends there said they were “extremely satisfied” with their lives, compared with just 19 percent of those who attended but didn’t enjoy the same tight circle. The key is building an intimate cluster of like-minded people, according to Chaeyoon Lim, a sociology professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison and the study’s author.

“We think it has something to do with the fact that you meet a group of close friends on a regular basis, together as a group and participate in certain activities that are meaningful to the group,” Lim told LiveScience. “At the same time, they share a certain social identity, a sense of belonging to a moral faith community. The sense of belonging seems to be the key to the relationship between church attendance and life satisfaction.” The findings were uniform across Protestants, Catholics, Evangelicals, Mormons and Jewish believers who attended regular services.

Bottom line: Church is good for you in a lot of ways. As VanderWeele told the Washington Post, “Service attendance is increasing social support. Through social norms, it’s also decreasing the likelihood of smoking. Perhaps through some of the messages of hope, it’s decreasing depressive symptoms. Perhaps self-discipline, a sense of meaning or purpose in life…”

To the Wife Wishing Her Husband Followed Christ More, Better, or At All

November 2nd, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Encouragement
Dear wife wishing her husband followed Christ more closely, you are not alone. But the answer to the questions you are asking may look quite a bit different than you think.

It was a podcast discussing Minimalism that got my attention.

I have a weakness for these sort of things. I love fresh ideas and challenges, trying new things. Have a new paleo eating plan? I’m game. Want to train for a half-marathon? Why not. Want to talk about getting rid of half your stuff and simplify? I’m listening. 

There is something about trying out new methods, strategies and challenges that I find invigorating. I might not adopt them all for the long term if they don’t fit my priorities, but I’m certainly willing to listen and often game to give it a try, because new things are the spice of life to me.

So I was listening to this podcast on Minimalism and after the guest articulated her perspective, the host asked a question I’m sure many of the listeners were wondering – how do we get our husbands on board?

And the woman’s answer caught me by surprise. In so many words she said – you don’t.

Kind of a shocking thought, no? You simply don’t.

She didn’t leave the listeners there tough. She told of how when she got started with minimalism she didn’t expect her husband to jump on the bandwagon, she just did the best she could with the things in her control. Together she and her husband agreed on a couple spaces in the house that were super important to him – the garage and the master closet. When she began organizing and downsizing he would keep all the things that he wasn’t willing to get rid of in those areas.

He kept his spaces as disorganized as he wanted and she determined to never nag or complain about them (this is key!) as she was free to organize/simplify everything else.

After a couple years her husband began to notice the fruit of her minimalist organization strategies. He noticed the freedom and joy she found in simplicity, how that spilled into the rest of her life as a wife and mom and, over time, he chose to adopt a more minimalist way of life as well.

 Not because of her nagging, but because of her joy.

Over the past few years I have received many questions from readers that boil down to the same thing – a wife very much wishing her husband followed Christ more…better…or at all. It is a beautiful and heartfelt concern many Christian women have. The wisdom shared on the podcast is actually a biblical model and practical answer to that very concern.

In 1 Peter 3:1 we read, “In the same way, wives, submit yourself to your own husbands so that, even if some disobey the word, they may be won over without a word by the way their wives live.”

Won over without a word, simply by the way we live. Wow.

The opening of Peter 3 is referring back to chapter 2 in which he reminds us that we were once sheep led astray but have found righteousness only by His sacrifice. He opens chapter 3, with this simple idea of pointing our husbands toward Christ with our very lives by saying, “In the same way…”

In the same way Christ did.

This is the gospel.

What a holy calling. What a huge responsibility.

So often we are convinced that we can push, pull and coerce our husbands into a closer relationship with Christ. We somehow believe we can manipulate or guilt them there. And it doesn’t work. In the long term it is incredibly destructive to our marriages.

John 13:35 tells us the world will know we are His by our love. Why would this not begin with the person standing right beside us, our husbands?

Your husband will not move closer to Christ because of your criticism or your cynicism. He will see Christ in you, by your love.

This is not always an easy task, I realize. But loving well in difficult times, in moments when we wish our husbands led better or prayed more, read devotions to our family, whatever we have been wishing for, will speak louder than any words we can ever say.

Be committed to your own relationship with Christ. Let your joy and hope, your obedience and repentance, leak out into the rest of your life. Love your husband well right where he is, and trust God to do the rest.

It is our beautiful and brave responsibility, friend, and by His grace we get to keep doing it.

May our husbands, and the world, know Him by our love today.