A Prayer for Our Children — and Ourselves

I wish I had noticed more fully a prayer of Paul’s while we were raising our six children. I would have memorized it. I would have prayed it — every day. 

I can still pray it — for my adult children, for myself and my husband, for my grandchildren, and for my fellow believers in Christ.

Paul is writing to the believers in Philippi, his beloved, his joy and crown. He prays for them as a father might pray for his children:

PrayerForOurChildrenAnd it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God (Philippians 1:9-11, ESV).

Let’s take this prayer and claim it for our children.

Lord, we pray that our children’s love for God and for each other would grow and increase.

We pray that this ever-growing love would be rooted in a vigorous knowledge of God and His truth as it is revealed in their study of His Word.

We pray that they will understand God’s love for them and that His love will inspire, motivate, and drive them to share that love with others. Give them insight into loving others in a godly Christ-like way.

We pray that they will test and approve the things that are excellent, that they will know what is best and what is true. Please give them wisdom to choose rightly between morality and grace, between the teachings of men and the teachings of God, between the earthly and the heavenly, between the temporal and the eternal.

We pray that their faith will be sincere and without hypocrisy or pretense. May their repentance be accompanied by the fruits of true repentance, and may they live with consciences that are free from offenses against you and others as they confess and forsake their sins.

We pray that their lives will be filled with good works — the fruits of Christ’s righteousness in them. Help them to live lives of fruitfulness and obedience, not to earn your favor or to gain the approval of men, but to glorify You as they live and serve in Your strength.

In Your precious Son’s name,

Amen

 

 

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Discipline vs Punishment – What’s the Difference?

Dad talking to son

I remember, not too long ago, looking a child right in the eye as he begins to slowly, deliberately tilt the full cup of water in his hand. “Stop – don’t you pour that on the floor!” I say, as I watch him do exactly that.

As the water hits the floor, my first thought is “You’re really going to get it now!”

I want to swoop in with the swift punishment that such clear disobedience surely deserves.

But I have to stop, and reconsider my motivation. It’s not just punishment that he needs, it’s discipline.

There is a big difference between punishment and discipline, and it’s important that we understand it.

What is punishment?

What is discipline?

So the goal of discipline is to bring about change, to alter the course, while punishment merely metes out justice, or even revenge.

Our job as parents is to administer firm, loving discipline that leads our children to repent of their sin and walk in righteousness. This discipline is both driven and tempered by the grace God has shown us in saving us from the punishment we deserve.

Update: Thanks to the moms who pointed out the need for some practical application here. I’m going to list some reactions that could be considered straight-out punishment, and then let me describe what discipline looks like in our home, on a good day, with an almost-three-year-old.

First let me caution you that this is merely our method for applying these principles. It’s not a formula everyone needs to follow. But hopefully it will help you see how punishment and discipline might look different in real life.

What would punishment look like in the above situation?

  • Yelling at my son (what I usually feel like doing).
  • Immediately hitting or spanking him without talking to him.
  • Pouring water on his head.
  • Giving him a “time out” but never talking to him.
  • Making him clean up the mess but not addressing the disobedience.
  • Doing nothing, but being angry at him for the next hour.
  • Ignoring instances like this all week and then finally blowing up at him or spanking him when it happens for the fifth time and I’m fed up with it.

What would discipline look like?

“Uh-oh. You made a mess.”
“You also disobeyed Daddy. We need to have a spanking. Please go to Daddy’s room.”

(In the room. We sit on the edge of the bed. My son is in my lap and I’m looking him in the eye.)

(seriously) “Did you obey Daddy?”

(solemnly) “No.”

“God says you should obey mama and daddy.” (This is a good time to look at the If-Then Chart together, if you want help explaining what he did wrong and what God says about it.) “When you disobey, I have to give you a spanking. We’re going to have two spankings now.”

(bend over knee and give two spankings on the bottom)

(hug until done crying)

“I love you.”
“Can you say, ‘Daddy, I’m sorry for disobeying’?”

“I’m sorry for disobeying.”

“I forgive you.” (hug again) “Will you obey Daddy next time?”

“Yeah.”

“Good. Let’s pray for you. Dear Jesus, I thank you for ____ and for making me his daddy. Help him to obey Daddy next time. Thank you Jesus that you forgive us when we sin. Thank you that you love us. Help us to obey you. In your name we pray, amen.”

(Usually by this point he is back to his cheerful self, and we may chat about something else or play around for a minute before leaving the room.)

“Now, let’s get a towel and clean up the mess.”

(Work on it together until done.)

With a younger child, you’d probably have less discussion, just explaining what he did wrong and why you have to spank him. With an older child, you might have more discussion, give him a chance to tell you what he thinks he did wrong, and maybe more creative discipline based on what you know will motivate him.

It takes time. Especially when you’re the only parent at home, it’s hard to take the time to discipline like this. But in our experience, the time investment will eventually pay off.

 

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Leading by Example

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I was recently trying to decide what to talk about for a devotional at the bridal shower. The bride works for one of my favorite grocery stores. Perhaps you’re fortunate enough to live near one of the 418 Trader Joe’s in the world. I decided to do a little research about this chain of stores.

For several years Trader Joe’s has ranked first or second as consumers’ favorite grocery store. (Who wouldn’t like shopping at a store where all workers all wear Hawaiian shirts?)

The cheerful, helpful workers that make Trader Joe’s so pleasant to shop at, are happy, in part, because they like working there.

One employee review states, “Everyone always asks why the employees are so happy at TJ’s; it’s because they treat their employees extremely well. Great pay, great benefits, and a great atmosphere to work in.”

Another describes the management at Trader Joe’s, “All the managers actually work with the crew members!!! They get on their hands and knees and restock the bottom shelves, they clean the toilets, scrub the floors… They work just as hard, sometimes harder than the crew members!!! Trader Joe’s has a ‘Lead by example’ policy that their managers listen to.”

Here’s something we can take and apply to our parenting! Here’s a few questions to think about:

  • Do our children like being in our homes?
  • Are they cheerful about working?
  • Are we leading by example? Do our children see us down on our knees, willingly doing the same work that we ask them to do?
  • Are we humble enough to work alongside them, or do we just tell them what to do?

Jesus didn’t just tell us what to do. He gave us an example. He humbled himself and left heaven to become a man. He lived with us, in the midst of all our sin. He healed people’s diseases, fed them when they were hungry, and then allowed them to kill Him — all to secure our salvation. He stepped down from heaven, reached into our lives, and showed us what real love looks like.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phil. 2:5-8)

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus . . .” Let’s show our children what it means to lay down our lives for others. We can lay down our lives as we get on our knees and work alongside them. Let’s lead by example.

 

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Too Fast.

TooFastNo3082614Do you have little children — you know, those charming, unpredictable, exhausting little ones that always lead people to say, “Oh, they grow up so fast. Enjoy these days while you can”?

I remember sweet white-haired ladies and elderly gentlemen saying those sorts of things to me while our six young children and I all marched through grocery stores or poured one-by-one out of the van.

Those comments were so much better than the just-wait-until-they-turn-into-teenagers comments. But I can still remember wondering sometimes if those dear people were remembering how much work it was when their children were little. How could “tomorrow they’ll all be grown up” possibly be true, when there were days I didn’t think the next eight hours would ever end so that I could go to bed?

But it is true, and I’m sitting here with my gray hair and my almost-empty nest, looking at a living reminder of that truth. It’s a tree our son planted. Many years ago he dug up a little seedling under a sprawling black walnut tree on the side of a lane our family often walked. He brought it home, put it in a pot with some soil, and let it grow.

One day, as we ceremoniously buried a family pet, he pushed that tiny little sapling into the soil and encircled it with a piece of fencing  to protect it from stray volleyballs and overzealous lawnmowers.

That must have been a dozen or more years ago.

I could write several posts about the lessons that tree has taught me over the years. But today, as I hauled tomatoes and zucchinis out of the garden and turned on the sprinklers, it reminded me again of how quickly time passes. Wasn’t it just yesterday when that tree was pushed into the soil? Now it’s probably twenty feet tall. It will give us walnuts this year.

TooFastNo2082614

And the boy who planted that tree — he’s grown up, too. He’s running our business. He’s loving his wife and training his children. By God’s grace, he has grown into a God-fearing, hard-working, family-loving man.

Believe those people when they remind you that your children are going to grow up way too fast. Take hold of these days God has given you with them. It’s the only chance you get. Other things can wait until your children are grown and gone, but you won’t get another chance to love and train your children in your home.

Are you making the years count? Are you guiding your children down the path toward mature, godly, all-for-Jesus adulthood? Are you showing them what that looks like in your own life?

Pray along with David, “ So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Then sit down, write up some real plans, and train those precious children before they’re all grown up and gone. 

 

P. S. I didn’t write this post to promote these books, but I should at least offer the reminder that Doorposts has two books designed specifically for helping you purposefully take hold of the years you have with your children. If you’re looking for help, Plants Grown Up for boys and Polished Cornerstones for girls will give you hundreds of practical ideas for training your children in godly living.

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Less Is More.

LessIsMore081914I’ve had a garden every summer for the past thirty-five years. It’s generous to call some years’ efforts a garden. Different years meant different babies newly arrived or still in the works during garden seasons. Babies were born in April, May, June, August, September, October (of different years, obviously :-) ). Those years were a bit more challenging. I called the gardens of those years my treasure hunt gardens. Go out and see what you can find in the weeds.

In thirty-five years, I’ve managed to learn a few things  – what we will eat and what we never get around to using (kohlrabi is amusing to look at but not very exciting to eat), how much lettuce to plant at one time so a whole row doesn’t go to seed all at once, which seeds never seem to germinate for me (no parsnips for us this year :-( ), which seeds I should plant thickly in order to get enough to sprout.

But one thing I’ve never seemed to learn is how to thin seedlings without feeling bad.

Actually, I have learned that it’s important to thin seedlings. I usually just can’t bring myself to kill all those hopeful little baby plants! Right now I have lettuce that I need to go out and thin. I always tell myself that I’ll wait until the plants have grown some, and then we can use the thinnings in a salad. It’s a nice theory, but I don’t always get around to it.

And so I end up with lots of small, crowded lettuce plants in the same space that seven or eight heads of lettuce would thrive in if they had enough space. The same thing happens with the beets — lots of small ones instead a fewer big ones. Swiss chard and carrots often suffer the same neglect.

Sometimes less actually means more. Less plants in the ground often means more actual food to eat. If fifty lettuce plants aren’t all fighting for the same 10 feet feet of soil, we actually get seven or eight nice big heads of healthy lettuce.

Sometimes less means more when it comes to raising our kids, too. It’s so hard to say “no” to so many good activities, but how many things can we actually cram into a 24-hour period and do them all well? How many lessons, how many sports activities, how many church commitments, how many social gatherings?

If we try to squeeze too much into our lives (and into the lives of our children), none of our busy-ness ends up bearing much fruit. We end up with a lot of activity, but not much deep learning or real joy in what we’re doing.

When we’re too busy, the best things often get crowded out, like the Yugoslavian Red lettuce I really like that is getting crowded out by the overpopulation of ho-hum green lettuce. It needs space to grow. I need to give it that space.

When our lives get too full, we often sacrifice the best parts of life and the parts God holds us most responsible for — things like relaxed, un-pressured time spent with our children and with our spouse, time learning together from God’s Word, time thinking and imagining and planning, time building relationships, time when Mama isn’t cranky and stressed as she tries to keep up with everyone’s overbooked schedules. (I can remember some too-busy seasons of our family life when I’m sure I was not very fun to live with.)

We’re supposed to teach our children God’s law when we sit in our house, when we walk by the way, when we lie down, and when we rise up. That means we need to spend time with them — time when we can really give them our undivided attention.

As we are about to launch into a new school year, stop and reevaluate. Do you need to do some “thinning”? Should you reconsider how many extra classes and activities you want to encourage your children to participate in? Pray about this. What does God want you and your family to do? What is really going to matter twenty or thirty years from now — or more importantly — in eternity? Are you making those things a priority?

Discuss this with your husband, pray together, fortify yourselves, and start plucking out the good things that are going to keep you from doing the best things and doing them well.

I’m heading out now to face that row of lettuce. :-)

 

 

 

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A Giveaway Winner!

Prov31GiveawayWinner

Thank you all for your responses to our giveaway! It is so encouraging to hear what God has been teaching you through His Word. And thank you for all your words of thanks and encouragement. I count it a privilege to have studied together with you all!

My prayer is that the lessons we learned in our study will stay with us and change the way we view and live our lives. Our lives are all about God — who He is, what He has done, and what He will continue to do in our lives and in the lives of those around us as we love and obey Him. Stay in the Word! :-)

Comment #73 by Trish was randomly drawn as the winner of our $50 gift certificate! Congratulations, Trish! We’ll be emailing you soon!

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Feeling Stuck

Frustrated childI hear a child’s frustrated crying in the kitchen. I go to investigate, and I find my 2-year-old son pushing with all his might against a chair, angry that it’s not moving.

He has plans, but something has gone wrong. Soon I realize why he’s upset.

The back of the chair has run into an open cupboard door and stopped his movement. But his head is down, his brow is furrowed, and he’s still crying and vigorously pushing the chair with both hands. This focused little guy hasn’t noticed what’s happening, and he’s getting more frustrated by the minute.

I step in to help, moving the chair, closing the cupboard, and letting the relieved little fellow resume scooting his chair across the floor.

It makes me chuckle to myself. How silly of him.

But then I realize that I do the same thing sometimes as a parent. I get angry at problems instead of looking for a way to fix them:

  • I get frustrated when we’re late to church AGAIN.
  • I get angry at the child who tests my limits instead of obeying me.
  • I’m resentful that I missed my Bible reading time because I was up with children during the night or too early in the morning.

Although it’s easy to feel like the victim in situations like these, I’m actually the one responsible to do something about the problem. For example:

  • Make a plan for Sunday morning that includes preparing ahead and allowing time for the inevitable lost shoe and other emergencies.
  • Be more consistent in expecting obedience, so the child won’t need to test me every time.
  • Make back-up plans for Bible study at other times during the day, because mornings are just not predictable in this season of life.

Proverbs 14:15 says “the prudent gives thought to his steps.” When challenges or frustrations arise, sometimes we need to step back and take a better look at what we’re doing. We need to take responsibility, consider the situation, and look around us for a solution.

Here are some steps that may help:

  • Pray for God’s wisdom and help
  • Talk with your spouse and look for a solution together as a team.
  • Get advice from older, wiser parents you respect
  • Ask yourself questions like “What does God’s Word say about this problem?” “What can we do to prevent this problem?” and “How does God want us to deal with this problem?”
  • Make a change to your own behavior, priorities, routines, expectations, etc.

Parenting is a demanding job. One of the ways we can avoid burning out is to be prudent about how we respond to problems and frustrations. God sees it all, and He is ready and willing to help us!

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Prayer Makes Things Happen

The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16, NASB).

PrayAugust72014Do I really believe this verse? If I do, why don’t I pray more?

Our sermon on Sunday was on prayer. I came away challenged to make prayer the first thing I do:

- When I get up in the morning

- When I’m tempted to say things I shouldn’t

- When I don’t know what I should do about something

- When misunderstandings occurs

- When I’m too tired to keep going.

I want prayer to be my first response, as I acknowledge my utter dependence on Him. He’s the one who changes things. He’s the one who gives wisdom. He’s the one who has promised to listen.

——————–

Just to let you know, for the next month or two, we are going to be posting here just once a week. We’re cutting back for two reasons:

I’m in the middle of working on a chart and book set based on 1 Corinthians 13, and I haven’t been making much progress while traveling to conferences and writing Bible studies! We would like to get this project finished up and available this fall, and fall is coming fast!

I would also like the extra time so that I can respond to many of you ladies who asked questions, left comments, or expressed needs as we studied Proverbs 31 together. I just couldn’t keep up with that while I was writing the Bible study lessons.

So we’ll be posting on Tuesdays only for now. I would appreciate your prayers as I try to finish up the 1 Corinthians 13 chart. Pray that this can be a tool that will help parents teach their children about godly love, and pray for clear thinking, fewer-than-normal distractions, and some sleep! :-) And I’ll pray for you, that God will give you grace and strength as you live each day with its challenges and blessings!

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Time for a Giveaway!

fear-of-the-lord-tree

I’m already looking forward to our next study in November! I’m praying for all you ladies who are still working your  way through Proverbs31. I’m so glad you’re not quitting just because we’re not posting any new lessons. If you get done, and you haven’t done some of our earlier studies, check the archives. There are five other studies just waiting to be done! :-)

I’m also continuing to pray for all of you who have finished the study. I’m praying that you will stay in the Word, studying it, praying over it, living it, obeying it — because that’s what fearing the Lord is all about. Please keep posting on the Busy Mamas Facebook group. Tell us how we can pray for you. Tell us what you’ve been learning. Let’s encourage each other as we fight our battles for King Jesus.

I have three things to address before we go back to our regular Tuesday/Thursday post schedule here on the blog — a giveaway, a survey, and a freebie.

  • We traditionally end our Busy Mamas studies with a giveaway! This time we’re giving away a $50 gift certificate for anything your heart desires from Doorposts!

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment sharing with us something you learned (even if you haven’t finished yet) in the Proverbs 31 study, or something you are learning from your own study of the Bible if you didn’t take part in the Proverbs 31 study. You can leave more than one comment, and even if you didn’t study Proverbs 31 with us, you are welcome to enter the giveaway! We will randomly select one winner from all the comments on Monday, August 11, so be sure to leave your comment before midnight, August 10.

  • Also, if you have been doing the study, taking a couple minutes to answer eight quick questions would be a tremendous help to me as I work at making these studies as useful and user-friendly as possible. I know your time is precious. Thanks, if you can help me out by completing our short survey! :-)
  • And last-but-not-least, if you would like a copy of the picture at the top of this post, click this link and it’s all yours! Maybe you could put it inside a kitchen or bathroom cupboard door or on the fridge where you’ll see it and remember that the fear of the Lord is where valiant womanhood starts. (Thanks, Ellen S., for the suggestion! :-) )

Ah yes! One more thing! If you own Plants Grown Up or Polished Cornerstones or are thinking about using them with your children, I want to let you know that we have just started up a new Facebook group for those of you who would like to share ideas, ask questions, and interact with other like-minded families who are using those two books. Please join us if you would like the encouragement!

See y’all on Thursday!

 

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Thirty (Three) Days in Proverbs 31 for Busy, Busy Mamas, Day 33: What Next?

30DaysProverbsDay33WhatNext

There is so much more we could study related to Proverbs 31! It’s hard to bring this study to a end! But I’m sure we’ve all got plenty to keep us busy applying from this past month’s study time together. :-)

For those of you who would like ideas for continued study, or who would like to keep working with your newly-learned skills on Blueletterbible, I have a list of additional study suggestions you might want to try out.

Don’t miss our end-of-the-study giveaway! We’ll be posting it on Tuesday, so stay tuned! :-) If you have time to complete a survey that we will post on that same day, I would sure appreciate your help! I want to make these studies as useful and user-friendly as possible, so we are getting the most we can from our study time. Your input will help me do a better job of that!

Also, if you stay signed up for our blog posts or for the “Busy Mamas” Facebook group, you’ll be the first to hear when we start gearing up for our next study in November. In the meantime, we’ll go back to our regular Tuesday and Thursday posts designed to encourage all you busy wives and mothers (and single ladies) and equip you with tools for using the Bible as you live with other fallen sinners every day.

Additional Bible study suggestions:

  • Use Blueletterbible to read Matthew Henry’s commentary on Proverbs 31. (Search on Proverbs 31, click on “Commentaries” in the “Tools” menu for any verse, and open Matthew Henry on Proverbs 31. Read and take notes.
  • Use Blueletterbible to study more about fearing the Lord. Search on fear Lord to find all the verses that contain those words. Study the verses. Study the lives of those the Bible identifies as fearing the Lord. Make a list of all the ways our fear of the Lord is manifested.
  • Study the word wisdom. Search on wisdom on Blueletterbible. Then click the checkbox for Strong’s above the verse texts. This will reveal the Strong’s number for all the main words in each verse. Read each verse, noting the Strong’s number for wisdom and taking notes. Try to keep separate pages of notes for each Strong’s number. When you have finished reading and taking notes on the verses, look at each word’s usage by typing the Strong’s number into the search box and then using the Interlinear tool to see its lexicon entry.
  • Compare wisdom and the Proverbs 31 Woman. What do they have in common?
  • Read the book of Proverbs and note every mention of women and what is said about them. Organize what you find and compare those notes with what you have learned about the Proverbs 31 Woman.
  • Read the book of Proverbs and note every mention of diligence and slothfulness. Summarize what you find. How does this relate to the valiant woman of Proverbs 31?
  • Study the mighty men of valor in the Old Testament, by searching on men of valour. List their acccomplishments and any other observations you make. What can you learn as a woman-of-valor-in-the-works from these mighty men of valor?
  • Study women of the Bible who did their husbands good and women who did their husbands evil. Click the word Study in the upper menu bar of Blueletterbible. Then, under Bible Reference, click Encyclopedias / Dictionaries. Click “W” (for women) in the gray alphabet box, and scroll down to click Wo-. Scroll down to click Women, and then scroll way down to Women: Good: Instances of. If you continue to scroll down, you will also find the heading Women: Wicked: Instances of. Read the passages listed for each of the individual women, taking notes, and then organizing what you find. What can you learn from these good and bad examples?
  • Search on the word strength in Blueletterbible and read the verses listed. Click on the Strong’s box above the verses to reveal the Strong’s numbers for the main words in each verse. Take notes, separating them according to the Strong’s number assigned in each verse. Compare what you find. Are there different kinds of strength? Different sources of strength? How does this relate to your study of Proverbs 31? You can repeat the same process, searching this time on the word strong.
  • Use a topical Bible to study different topics related to Proverbs 31 — fear, worry, reaching out to the needy, godly beauty, the tongue, sloth and diligence, etc. Add relevant notes in the margin of your Bible for Proverbs 31.
  • Study the book of Ruth, using some of the methods we used in studying Proverbs 31. Look for repeated words, mark in a specific way each mention of the main characters, pay attention to words like butthereforebecause and for. Notice what each character says in the account. Do you learn more about valiant womanhood as you slow down to study the book more? What do you learn about redeemers?
  • Read A Woman’s Wisdom, by Lydia Brownback, for other insights on Proverbs 31.
  • Read this free version of  An Excellent Woman, by Anne Pratt for additional insights on Proverbs 31.
  • Study the book of Proverbs, taking time to look up words, categorize verses according to subject, read commentaries on puzzling verses, etc. This is one great way to grow in wisdom!
  • For inspiration in homemaking with creativity and delight, read The Hidden Art of Homemaking, by Edith Schaeffer. This book transformed my view of homemaking many years ago.
  • Complete the studies in Beauty in the Heartby me. :-) These could be done along with daughters 10 or so and older, and address issues of godly beauty as described in Scripture. You will also learn other Bible study methods, step-by-step, as you study.

(If you have sons 10 or older, get them going on Because You Are Strong, a collection of step-by-step studies on godly strength, written by our son and manager of Doorposts. They teach Bible study methods as you go, too.) 

  • Complete one of our previous Busy Mamas Bible Studies, using the same methods we have used in our study of Proverbs 31:

Thirty Days in Colossians 3

Thirty Days in Psalm 37

Thirty Days in 1 Corinthians 13

The three studies listed above are also available free in the archives of Doorposts of Your Housein addition to Thirty Days in Philippians 2 and Thirty Days in 1 John 3.

  • Get a group of ladies together and go through one of the Busy Mamas Bible studies. Have ladies take turns leading each meeting, if you don’t want full responsibility for leading.

See you Tuesday! :-)

 

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