Starting Your School Day Off Right: 4 Quick Tips

starting your school day off right Starting Your School Day Off Right: 4 Quick Tips

Since I promised 4 Quick Tips to starting your school day off right, let me just quench the suspense and give those to you right away:

1. Lay out your priorities

2. Develop a schedule

3. Set their minds

4. Communicate your expectations

Now if you want to learn the detailed how and why behind making each of these tips a reality, you’ll have to read my full article on How to Start Your School Day Off Right on But suffice it to say, this advice comes from personal need and experience.

I have one child who gets out of bed quite easily in the morning and another who…does not.

However, everything changed a few months ago after making only one change.

What that made me realize was that as parents, more often than not, we grossly underestimate our kids. And worse than that, I wasn’t giving them the room to prove me wrong.

Our kids are capable. Give them something to look forward to. Challenge them. Allow them the opportunity to rise above the mundane of the everyday and see a glimpse of the extraordinary God designed for us!

So if you’re like me and find yourself hurrying your kids into the car each morning with a cup of dried cereal, praying no-one forgot homework or a lunch box, I challenge you re-think your morning routine by digging deeper into the 4 tips above.

Then come back and let me know how they worked for you icon wink Starting Your School Day Off Right: 4 Quick Tips

For more tips on how to re-prioritize your year, check out my series on How to Live a Prioritized Life.

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Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Journey #FollowTheBox #OCCEcuador

Operation Christmas Child Shoebox  Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Journey #FollowTheBox #OCCEcuador

If you’ve been following my Operation Christmas Child shoebox journey during my recent trip to Ecuador, now you can watch the entire process, from packing to distribution, in just minutes!

I met Stefania on top of a mountain over 11,000 feet in the air on our very last distribution. Though we’d already been to two orphanages, a church and a school, I hadn’t felt right about handing out our family’s shoebox until that exact moment.

My daughter had prayed the box would go to the perfect person, and while every child was more than deserving, the moment was right when Stefania and I met. In total, over 700 shoeboxes were handed out on our Ecuador trip, but more are needed for kids ALL OVER THE WORLD!

Even if you’ve yet to pack a shoebox, it’s not too late! @OCC_Shoeboxes are actually distributed throughout the year and can even be built online. Won’t you help ensure that no child goes without this Christmas?

You can also read my #OCCEcuador trip reflections

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The Good that Opposes the Best

Creativity is the key. 682x1024 The Good that Opposes the Best

In business, we often say that good is the enemy of great (and quickly fix that with books like Good to Great by Jim Collins).

But have you ever thought about the good that opposes the best when it comes to our spiritual life?

Philippians 4:8 tells us

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

just as the Galatians 5:22-23 reminds us that the fruit of the spirit is

… love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

So naturally, especially as a new Christian a decade ago, I spent a great deal of time aspiring to these concepts.

The only problem is that I always ultimately come short.

So then should I abandon those moral goals altogether? Not quite.

But perhaps we may need to rethink them.

After I read the following by Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest, it caused me to pause:

The things that are right, noble, and good from the natural standpoint are the very things that keep us from being God’s best. Once we come to understand that natural moral excellence opposes or counteracts surrender to God, we bring our soul into the center of its greatest battle. Very few of us would debate over what is filthy, evil and wrong, but we do debate over what is good.

It is the good that opposes the best.

The higher up the scale of moral excellence a person goes, the more intense the opposition to Jesus Christ…The natural life is not spiritual, and it can made spiritual only through sacrifice. If we do not purposely sacrifice the natural, the supernatural can never become natural to us.

Ultimately, I took this passage to mean that all of us may disagree on what is in fact ‘good’…and we can waste so much energy and time, not only trying to achieve ‘good’, but trying to prove and convince others of that definition.

Instead, why not focus on surrendering our lives and will to God and with that will come the moral clarity so many of us seek.

Really, the equation becomes so much more attainable when we put our efforts in God’s hands instead of our own, wouldn’t you agree?

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Truth in the Tinsel Advent Book Discount

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With Advent just around the corner, I wanted to share this  Truth in the Tinsel Advent Book experience book for Little Hands by my talented friend Amanda.

I have so much I want to tell you about why this book is great, why you should get it and why our family needed it, but 2 reasons should suffice:

1. Let’s face it, we’re all busy…and if you’re anything like me, you’re lucky that you’re remembering that Advent is starting already, let alone have the ability right now to come up with your own advent activities! So why not take the wonderful fruits of Amanda’s labor to share these amazing truths and activities with your kiddos?

2. Of course I have a deal you can’t refuse! Just use code THESAMI to take 20% off when you order Truth in the Tinsel (Amanda came up with that clever promo code, not me icon wink Truth in the Tinsel Advent Book Discount

And I lied, there’s a 3rd reason…

3. What is more important to do with your kids this Christmas than share the reason for the season?

truth in the tinsel curriculum Truth in the Tinsel Advent Book Discount

Well, there you have it. There is also at Truth in the Tinsel curriculum (Click here to view more details), as well as printable ornaments.

I’m so excited to share Amanda’s Truth in the Tinsel Advent book with you! Have any of you done Truth in the Tinsel with your kids yet? I’d love to hear from you if you are!

And if you want to follow along with other families who are also going through the Truth in the Tinsel Advent Book, just use #TruthTinsel on Twitter. (Don’t forget to share your own Truth in the Tinsel family creations!).

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National Bible Bee 2013: Watch Live!

I am honored to share that I’m on my way to moderate the National Bible Bee in Sevierville, TN at Wilderness at the Smokies!

Screen Shot 2013 11 21 at 2.33.26 PM National Bible Bee 2013: Watch Live!

For the next 3 days, not only will I serve as a moderator for the final rounds of the Primary and Junior divisions, but my family and I will be enjoying ALL the fun activities that go along with National Bible Bee.

Oh, and did I mention the indoor water park, Glow in the Dark Laser Tag, and Ropes Course at Wilderness at the Smokies? I don’t think the kids will ever want to leave!

The National Bible Bee is coming to the Sevierville Events Center on Friday, November
22nd and Saturday, November 23rd. Come hear children ages 7 to 18, as they recite
God’s Word and share their knowledge after month’s of extensive bible study. These
top Bible athletes will gather from across America this one weekend only to compete for
amazing prizes.

For those of you wanting to find out more about the National Bible Bee 2013, now you can watch the webcast of the Semi Final and Final Challenge Rounds LIVE on their website,

These challenge rounds will be going on all day on Friday and Saturday, November 22nd-23rd and it’s free to watch.

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Emmerson Eggerichs Author Chat on FaithGateway: Love & Respect in the Family

I hope you’ll be able to join me tonight as I have the privilege of hosting the Emmerson Eggerichs Author Chat on!

This is such a privilege because not only have I read Emmerson’s breakthrough book, Love & Respect, but we’ve even attended his live seminars when he lived in Florida.

 Emmerson Eggerichs Author Chat on FaithGateway: Love & Respect in the Family Emmerson Eggerichs Author Chat on FaithGateway: Love & Respect in the Family

It’s so exciting to think that what Love & Respect did for marriages, Love & Respect in the Family: The Respect Parents Desire; The Love Children Need Emmerson Eggerichs Author Chat on FaithGateway: Love & Respect in the Family can do for families everywhere!

Make sure to RSVP on and then join me LIVE as I interview Emmerson and answer all your questions at 8pm EST/7pm CST on 11/19/13 (Don’t forget to tweet your questions to #LoveRespect!)

If you missed my Emmerson Eggerichs Author Chat LIVE on FaithGateway last night, you can watch it here.

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We serve a big God…

We serve a big God.

Some of you may be thinking, “Duh…that’s like lesson one in Sunday School when we’re 5 years old!”

But for someone like me who came to know Christ in my mid-20′s and is the daughter of a Jewish lawyer born during the Great Depression, sometimes I have to go back & analyze the facts and re-state the obvious so I don’t forget the truth.

And the truth is, we serve a big God.

How can I state that as a fact? Let me just share a glimpse of how my last 12 hours have transpired:

A series of events yesterday led me to question a lot of things in my personal and professional life. Obviously, the psychological burden proved too great until all of a sudden, around 11:30 last night, I started sobbing uncontrollably.

I’d allowed a couple of petty comments, texts & yes, even Facebook to eat away at me and for a little while, seriously started wondering if anyone liked me. (The enemy strikes best when it’s dark…have you ever noticed that?)

This morning, my husband blessed my by taking our son to school and our daughter (who I’m homeschooling this term) with him to help on a home decor job he had. (That’s how they bond…surely we all know she didn’t get that gene from me!).

All this to say, I found myself home alone for the the first time in about 4 months. My first instinct was to turn on the TV and drown out the voices in my head, but I felt like my soul needed the silence more.

I was literally about to sit down at my computer and type out a blog post entitled, “Am I a horrible person?” when my best friend from Florida called me.

This may not seem out of the ordinary for those of you that talk to your best friend or mom on a daily basis (or perhaps multiple times a day), but I’m not what you’d call a phone person…and neither is she. In fact, I can’t remember the last time we actually connected via the phone, but that’s ultimately not how we communicate love to each other.

But I digress.

The point is, before I could weep and moan and belabor over my keyboard about how I must be deluding myself into thinking people liked me and ultimately I must be horrible otherwise these things wouldn’t be happening to me, my sweet friend called out of the blue.

Thankfully, as only she can do with me, she gave me a ‘snap out of it’ talk and reminded me of the actual, verifiable, God-given truth that abounds in my life. (It is ultimately because of her that this post has transformed from, “Am I a horrible person?” to “We serve a big God“…)

While on the phone with her, I received a call from another one of my best friend’s in Atlanta who I also haven’t been able to connect with in forever.

As soon as I hung up one call, I got another from a local friend who I thought I had wronged because of the silence between us and realized that was in no way the truth, that they were in fact, like the rest of us, just insanely busy, but wanted to get a date on the calendar to get our families together.

THEN, immediately following that call, another sweet friend of mine (also equally difficult to pin down on a phone call) rang in, saying, “I don’t have much time, but just felt a strong urge to check in on you”.

Even as I type this, tears are welling up in my eyes thinking about the turn of events. 12 hours ago, I was believing a grossly-overexaggerated, nowhere near true thought that I was allowing to become my reality. Yes, I allowed it to take over my brain.

This morning, without me knowing, our big God orchestrated a series of events across multiple states, time zones, and work situations to allow some of the most important people in my life to converge on my heart all at once.

…weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. ~ Psalm 30:5b

So to all of you who think your life isn’t perfect (or worse, think my life is!), I wanted to transparently show you the truth: none of our lives are perfect, but we serve a God who is!!!

Life is too hard to waste time believing the lies of others. Ultimately, we shouldn’t spend even a moment worrying about whether people like us or don’t like us: our primary goal should be to live a live consistent in Christ that points people toward Him.

Yet how merciful is our God to know us so well that He would care enough to send His angels through our friends to remind us of His love when we need it most!

So to all of you out there struggling a bit like me today, know that I am praying fervently for you to receive blessing, peace and wisdom, much like I was gifted this morning.

And if you need a virtual ‘slap in the face’ to wake up out of your worry, just leave a comment below and I’ll send my friend your way icon wink We serve a big God...

we serve a big god psalm 30 5 We serve a big God...

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Best Bible Storybooks: Kids say… {FaithGateway post}

I wanted to let you know about my post over on today talking about the best Bible Storybooks out there for kids, in the opinion of a kid!

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That’s right! My very own 9 year old daughter, Kariss, and I recorded a rousing 5 minute video on (in our humble opinion) the Top 8 BEST Bible Storybooks out there (from publishers like Tommy Nelson & Zonderkidz).

You can check out the video here:

and find links to ALL the books we mention in our video over on our FaithGateway Bible Storybook post!

If you want to watch more Girl Mom Show videos in the future, make sure to follow us on Twitter at @GirlMomShow and on our new Girl Mom Show YouTube channel!

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Nature Bible Giveaway (& a Camping Lesson Learned…)

On our camping trip this year (yes I said camping), I learned a bit of what it was like to live in the great outdoors.

 Nature Bible Giveaway (& a Camping Lesson Learned...)

But that doesn’t mean I wanted to sacrifice my daily routine, including mine and my kids’ devotion time in the morning.

Since I didn’t exactly sleep well in the great outdoors, it wasn’t difficult for me to wake up early and go for a walk (Notice I said walk and not hike).

 Nature Bible Giveaway (& a Camping Lesson Learned...)

Yes, I discovered the proverbial wild animal, but what was even sweeter to me was seeing the rays of sun peeking through the clouds and falling upon an old church and log cabin in the woods.

By no means do I consider myself a photographer, much less an iPhone photography excerpt, but I couldn’t resist snapping away like I was one.

 Nature Bible Giveaway (& a Camping Lesson Learned...)

Once back at camp, I pulled out my journal to document my thoughts and experiences from the trip. The problem came the next morning when I followed the same routine, but halfway through my walk it started to rain.

 Nature Bible Giveaway (& a Camping Lesson Learned...)

You see where this is going don’t you…

As I hurried back, I found our small group busy packing up everything amidst heavy raindrops. Of course nothing was packed up as carefully as it was when we brought it, and we were left to wait until we got home to try to figure out where everything was.

Lo and behold, can you guess what went missing? That’s right: my journal.

I was devastated.

Even though I am a blogger and spend an obscene amount of time on my computer, nothing will ever replace the joy of my (blue) pen gliding across the paper.

And if you’ve been following along with all that I’ve been going through over the past year, you know just how much material I had to fill that journal with. (And believe it or not, if you think I share a lot on here, I do still try to filter myself and keep some things private icon smile Nature Bible Giveaway (& a Camping Lesson Learned...)

I can tell you are on pins and needles, so I won’t draw out the suspense any longer. Three days later, my husband eventually found my journal in our tent that had been wrapped up hastily and thrown on the back of a friend’s trailer.

Though warped and a little wet, it came out remarkably unscathed.

I am not ashamed to say they were tears of joy when I received the text saying he had discovered my gem.

Not that I plan on going camping again anytime soon, but it made me think about the protective cases we buy for everything else in our lives, especially things that are “precious” to us like our iPhones and iPads.

But have you ever seen a Bible made for the great outdoors?

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Kids always get all the cool stuff, right?

The Nature Bible is made for the outdoors, complete with its own zip cover to keep it protected from all the elements so you can take it with you anywhere.

Would you like to win your own copy of the Nature Bible? Just enter below for a chance to win my Nature Bible giveaway (courtesy of Tommy Nelson):
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Read all my posts as a Tommy Nelson Mommy over on

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3 Cheap Summer Vacation Ideas

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Most people know they should come to me to discover how to accomplish their dreams on a budget…that’s why I’m sharing 3 cheap summer vacation ideas over on today!

Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice great experiences or fun with your family. Grabbing a flight at the last minute might be difficult, but I still have some great ideas that anyone can implement within just a few days.

1. Staycation

I LOVE staycations. If you’ve never heard this term, it’s essentially when you take a vacation in your own hometown. Sometimes it involves checking into a hotel and trying out a new restaurant or two. Other times, it just means visiting parks, festivals or other free activities that you’ve never explored in your neck of the woods. Staycations don’t necessitate spending money—just using your imagination! Search the web for free activities or get tips from local bloggers, then let everyone in the family vote on one activity they’d like to try.

Get the rest of my tips and read the entire post over on

Want to be sure you have a regret-free summer? Check out Regret-Free Parenting by Catherine Hickem.

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