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Empower Your Children

As parents we aspire to do our best to raise our children to have a good sense of self-worth and an ability to make the best decisions on their own.  We desire for them to learn the skills that will make them into strong, independent people as they grow and develop.  We long for them to be self-motivated to do what needs to be done, whether that is homework, chores, practice for sports, music, or dance.  We help them learn to deal with their emotions and have compassion and empathy for others, in the midst of sibling rivalry and troublesome friendships.

On the blog, themommyviewthe author states that “praising good behavior, can lead children to believe that they are worthy, simply because of the actions that they take and the things that they do.  Acknowledging the motivation that it took to complete an action, helps a child feel good about themselves.  This intrinsic motivation is powerful for kids.  In the future they will not repeat the action because it pleases you, but they will repeat it because it feels good to them.  This is what leads to positive behavior and action for a lifetime.”

So, then how do we put this process into action?  The author lists the steps below:

  • Recognize- What does your child do that you want to praise?  Art work, setting the table, cleaning up ?                                                                                                                                  Take note of exactly what it is you are praising.
  • Acknowledge- You have recognized what your child has done.  Now think about what they need to do to complete the task.  What skills, emotions, or thoughts were involved?
  • Appreciate-Appreciate those skills that they used.  Understand the feelings and emotions that they had and be thankful they took them into consideration.

The author gives examples of specific phrases that parents can use to empower their kids.  These phrases recognize and acknowledge the specific task that your child has done, and they show appreciation for their actions.  Here are some of her examples:

  • “You worked really hard on that.”
  • “You are a really helpful brother/sister.”
  • “Thank you for being such a great listener.”
  • “That really took a lot of practice.  I am glad that you stuck with it.”

Another blog, imperfect familiesshares a post entitled:  “Do you REACT or RESPOND to Your Kids?”  In the blog the author shares 2 ways that we can respond to our children in certain situations.  She points out that the “responding” messages are so much more powerful than the “reacting” messages that we give our children.  Here are some examples:

React Respond
“Stop that crying right now! You look upset, do you need a hug?”
“If you two don’t stop fighting, I’m turning this car around!” I am pulling over.   When the car is quiet, I will continue driving.”
“What?! You spilled your juice again!” “Oops, let’s get a rag and get that mess cleaned up.”
“Darn right, it’s not fair. Life’s not fair. Get used to it.” “I can tell you’re upset about my decision.”
“Another “C”? What’s going on with you?” “It looks like you are struggling in math. Is there anything I can do to help?”
“That’s enough whining, young lady!” “Please use a calm voice when asking me for something.”
“I’ve had it with you!” “I’m feeling frustrated right now. I’m going to take a walk to calm down.”

Another way of empowering children is to learn what their “love language” is.  There are five love languages:

  1. physical touch and closeness
  2. words of affirmation or encouragement
  3. quality time
  4. gift giving
  5. acts of service

The blog, for the family, describes the definitions for each of these categories.

  • Physical Touch and Closeness- Physical touch often speaks louder than words to children.  There are some children who would let you hold them all day, or those who love it when you rub their backs, or want to hold your hand as you walk into the grocery store.  This child is smiling when you are sitting near them at the table.  For these children hugs mean more to them than a bowl of ice cream, more than words could ever say.
  • Words of Encouragement or Affirmation- These children light up when they are told that their cursive is awesome, that their bed was made the best, or that they did great at soccer practice.  This child needs to know that you love him with your words and not your time, your touch, or your gifts.  None of these things will mean the smallest amount to a child who is yearning for your words of encouragement, gratitude and positive conversation.
  • Quality Time- This is focused attention- time spent doing anything together will define this child.  It could be sitting on the couch in conversation, in the same room as the family, even if everyone is doing something different.  As long as you are together, this child is as happy as a clam.  Washing dishes together, going for a walk, having a family game night or reading a book with this child are all good activities.
  • Gift Giving-Generosity, giving, and loving to receive the simplest of gifts will define this child.   This could be the child who would give you his favorite stuffed animal, or the teen who would give his last $50.00 to the guy on the corner with a sign in his hand.  This is the child who would buy gifts for every single person in the home and stretches his money to make it work.  The reaction of love when you give them a simple gesture of a gift, will blow you away.  It could be a note in the mail, a stick of gum, or a special drink.  Gift givers are easy to spot.  They are generous and appreciative.
  • Acts of Service-We all know that acts of service can be emotionally and physically exhausting.  A word of caution about this love language- “Be careful not to use this as a way to manipulate your children.  Begin with helping and doing things that they cannot do for themselves.  Move into creating an independent people, showing them how to serve others or when they need help.  Do not force extreme independence on them.” These children will run errands for you, be the first ones to step up for a needed role, and volunteer for the smallest details that you may ask for help with.  These children are generous with their time to serve others and usually do so with a joyful spirit.  They will love to serve with you.  This is the best opportunity to show them Christ’s love in action.  They are the next world changers- using their feet and their hands.

When you learn your child’s love language, respond to them in their favorite language.  Speak to them in the way that they will best hear you.  Finding your children’s strengths and love languages are like mining for gold.  While you are panning and sifting to find their gifts, talents, and to help them grow, you discover the way to their hearts, shares the author of the blog.

The challenge that we have as parents, is that we often respond to other people in our own love language.  The problem is that so often our children may have different love languages than ours.  Therefore, it is necessary for parents to identify each of our children’s love languages and then reach out to each child in the child’s love language.      That might mean that parents will be responding to various siblings with alternate love languages.  Our children will feel empowered in any situation that confronts them, if we are able to communicate with them on their level and in their particular love language.  Our children will then perceive that they are loved, understood, and valued for who they are.

May He hold you in the palm of His hand,

Debra Smith





The Value of Positivity

I am a person who likes to envision the glass half-full, instead of half-empty;  contemplating all of the possibilities that I can accomplish, instead of focusing on my shortcomings.  This mindset was not something that I gained from familial patterns that were passed down to me.  In fact, just the opposite!  I was brought up in a generation where perfectionism reigned.  I always believed that no matter how hard I tried, I could never reach the mark.  I would never be good enough.  There was little praise for effort or intention, with all of the attention focused on what I couldn’t accomplish.  This began a breeding ground for self-deprecation, depression, and anxiety.

As a beginning first grade teacher, I made a literal choice to not abide with a negative mindset.  What I had experienced in the past, would have no place in my classroom.  I had struggled through my elementary and middle school years in school, and I was determined to make school a better place for my students, than it had been for me.  I had a mission to make learning fun and accessible for all of my students.  Perfectionism and a negative attitude would have no place in my teaching.  Positive reinforcement and praise were the vehicles that I was going to incorporate in my educational plan for my students.  We were going to focus on what they could do, what they could accomplish, instead of their shortcomings.

This attitude carried over into my parenting when I became a mother 4 years later.  As a new mother I searched to find resources that focused on a child’s self-esteem and the effect that it had on learning.  Dorothy Corkille Briggs’ book- Your Child’s Self-Esteem was one of my favorites, along with James Dobson’s book, Dare to Discipline.  I saw the power of praise and encouragement in my own children’s lives.  It was so much more motivational than looking at the things that they did wrong.  Of course, we all make some wrong choices.  We will make mistakes.  But, to grow stronger and better, we need to view our mistakes as learning opportunities to choose another way,  a time to learn a new strategy to implement in the difficult areas of our lives.

Now, after being a mother and a teacher for 25 years, I have witnessed the success of this way of thinking.  As a grandmother of 9 grandchildren, I have seen the difference of having a positive and encouraging spirit.  I believe that it is human nature to focus on the negative, on what we believe that we “can’t” do.   I remember telling my 1st and 2nd grade students that one word that I would not accept hearing was the word, “can’t”, because can’t never could accomplish anything.  I even jokingly spoke of cutting the word “can’t” our of our dictionaries.   I wanted my students to “try” to succeed at a new or difficult task.  When you “try”, you may surprise yourself in what you can do.  Observing the lightbulb go off in a child’s head, when he finally understood, was thrilling to me!   Making an effort to try, and adopt new patterns or strategies was essential in learning.  This always happened in a child’s time, not always in “my time”.  Learning new skills happen on each child’s developmental timeline.  Some kids may grasp a new skill immediately, some after 1 or 2 repetitions, and others after multiple repetitions.

To gain this attitude of positivity, it is imperative that you adopt the strategy of “Catching your child being good“.  That entails observing your child doing the right thing so that you can praise him or her for their good choice.  Afterwards, you share this good news with other family members at the dinner table.  This is your way of modeling what are the correct and beneficial patterns for your children to follow.  For example:

  • You see your child helping his brother up after he falls.  You praise him for being kind and caring to his sibling.
  • You observe your child cleaning her room.  You give praise to her for being industrious and motivated to clean up her room.
  • You observe your child trying to be a peacemaker amidst conflict with her friends.  You praise her for her effort in trying to help find a solution with her peers.
  • You see your son generously sharing his toys with others.  You praise him for being generous and for sharing with his friends.
  • You tell your kids to get ready for bed.  One follows your directions and the others choose to play around.  You praise the one child who followed directions and was ready.

These positive comments that were given, acted as a catalyst to produce more positive behavior from the kids in days to come.  As a child perceives that he is getting attention from doing the right things, he will want to continue in like manner, because he is happy that he is pleasing you.  He is also receiving positive feedback about his behavior, which causes him to have the desire to repeat the behavior again and again.  On the other hand, if a child only gets comments when she is doing something wrong, she often will continue the negative behaviors, because this is her way of getting much-needed attention, or she might close down and stop trying altogether.

Dr. Jane Nelson on her Positive Parenting website states that you can create a positive atmosphere in your family when everyone learns to look for the good in each other and verbalize positive comments.  She continues, saying:

  • Compliments create a positive atmosphere.
  • Children learn to be “good finders” when they look for and verbalize the things they appreciate about family members.
  • Children usually fight less when they participate in regular family meetings that begin with compliments.
  • It is important for each member of the family give a compliment to every other member of the family so everyone feels a sense of belonging and significance.
  • Compliments may sound awkward at first, but they get better with practice.  You create a positive atmosphere in your family when everyone learns to look for the good in each other and verbalize positive comments.  When children and parents learn to give and receive compliments, negative tension is reduced considerably.

For the compliments given, one needs to focus on the accomplishments and helpfulness of others.  Dr. Nelson gives some examples:

  1. “I appreciate how quickly you get dressed and ready for school.”
  2. “I notice how kindly you cared for your sister when she felt sad.  I bet it helped her feel better.”
  3. “Thank you for setting the table.”

Incorporating these simple acts into your daily routine will change the atmosphere of your home.  Family meetings provide an opportunity to share your comments. Dr. Nelson suggests that families have regular family meetings to find solutions to problems and have family compliments as a part of that meeting.  She suggests the following:

  • Place blank compliment sheets on the refrigerator or in another convenient location.
  • When you or your kids see someone who deserves a compliment, write it down on one of the compliment sheets.  If your child is unable to write her compliment she could dictate it for you to write down.
  • At the beginning of each family meeting, family members read their compliments.
  • Make sure every family member receives at least one compliment.

Another author, Arlene Pellicane shares on her website, “The Happy Home”, five ways to become a more positive, purposeful parent.

  1. Reward initiative and effort.  Don’t buy into the “participation trophy” mentality in your parenting.  Instead reward your children for their effort and initiative.  When you see them reach a goal, make a point to celebrate and honor that accomplishment.  Give positive rewards for the following:  books being read, chores being done without complaint, test scores improving, and better behavior towards siblings.
  2. Make character building the highest priority.  Think of what you want your child to be when she is thirty.  Character traits such as being good, responsible, caring, courageous, and hard-working may come to your mind.  Focus on these traits in your parenting model.
  3. Teach your children how to manage emotions and do the right thing.  Don’t always ask the kids how they feel about this or that.  In our society we have downplayed the power of the will to do the right thing, even when we don’t feel like it.    Instead ask your child, “What do you think about that?”  “What is the right thing to do in this situation?”
  4. Make the Bible and prayer part of everyday life.  If you want to pass along a vibrant faith in God to your children, you must model it and talk about it.  You can pray with your child about a struggle at school.  Read a Psalm at breakfast. Memorize a verse a week together as a family.  Help and serve a family in your community. Let your children consistently see your faith in action.
  5. Put good habits in place- one at a time.  Studies show that 45-50% of what we do is habitual.  As parents we help our kids develop healthy habits that will really help them in adulthood.  Do they eat healthy food?  Are they getting enough exercise?  Do they finish tasks?

Arlene ends her article stating that as long as our children are under our roof, we still have time to make vital and positive adjustments.  It is never too late.  When you have a positive, growth mindset as a parent and you put a plan into place for your family, you will have more purpose and joy.

I heartily agree with Arlene; a positive growth mindset does produce more purpose and joy in your life as a parent and in the life of your children.  So, if you are tired of negativity and pessimism in your life, why don’t you give it a try?  There is great value in accentuating the positives!

May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand,

Debra Smith
















Kindness Can Make A Difference !

At this time of the year with the holiday of Valentine’s Day approaching, I am always drawn to the concept of sharing love and kindness to those whose paths we cross on our earthly journey.   As a former 1st and 2nd grade teacher, I always made it a point to accentuate the need for children to show kindness to their classmates, to the people responsible for teaching and raising them, and to their family and friends.  It was always a thrilling moment when the kids exchanged valentines and had their desks covered with all of the positive and caring sentiments that their fellow students had made for them.  The expressions on their faces were priceless as they opened each valentine and then affirmed thanks to the ones who gave them such a precious gift.  I always aimed at capturing the class’s attention at such a teachable moment to use it as a way of getting to the topic of how we were to treat others.   The important points often included the following ideas:

  • The Golden Rule- Treat others like you want to be treated.
  • Share with a classmate.
  • Show respect to each other, and to those in authority.
  • Use good manners, by saying “Please” and “Thank you”.
  • Help those in need- If a classmate falls, help them up.  If a classmate is upset, try to comfort him or her.
  • If you don’t have something nice to say to a friend, and are tempted to say something mean, then don’t say it at all.
  • Be kind to those around you in the classroom, on the playground, on the bus, and at home.
  • Be a good role model for others.

I know that many other teachers have taught the same concepts in their classes.  Therefore what has happened in our country today?  I have never seen such animosity, hatred, and violence.  In our adult world it appears as if any concept of kindness towards fellow human beings has faded into the woodwork.  The political scene has been disastrous!  I have often chosen not to watch the Evening News or read Facebook entries, because the comments made are filled with anger, hatred, and intolerance towards anyone who thinks different from the speaker, or writer.

I know that we are a nation of diverse people.  I see this fact as a very positive point, because we can learn from different kinds of people.  As we cross paths with people of different ethnicities and various colored skins and beliefs, we have the opportunity to grow as a person and expand our own horizons.  I acknowledge that I have become a better person as my life has been enriched by my African-American friends, by my friends from the Philipines, my Indian friends, my Korean friends, my Russian friends, my Turkish, Egyptian, and Iranian friends, and my friends from Nigeria and Kenya.  My son and daughter-in-law have adopted 3 African American girls, who truly light up my life!

I will have to admit that the current situation in our country absolutely breaks my heart.  I agree with so many people, who believed that there was no good choice for a Presidential candidate this past November.  Therefore, each of us had to make a choice of who to vote for. Since November what I have witnessed has been so distressing.   There has been a continual barrage of condemnation for anyone who voted for Trump, or for anyone who voices something positive about the President.  Madonna has spoken about bombing the White House.  Performers have been blacklisted, if they have been perceived as an ally of Trump.  Even in our own city, Kevin Plank, the CEO of Under Armor, has been under fire for making a supposedly positive statement about Trump.  On Inauguration Day businesses occurred broken windows and damage to their buildings as paid protestors went on a rampage.  Disparaging remarks were made about the President’s son.

On the other hand, I know that recent immigrants have felt threatened by the new policies of our President.  It has been horrible to see how some of our immigrants have been treated by fellow students in schools, and how fellow Americans have been unfairly treated by some of our police.  People accuse fellow Americans of being racists, bigots, and in being intolerant.  Yet, so often the people making those accusations are being intolerant towards anyone with a different opinion than theirs.

Everyone wants to have a voice, and in our country we are blessed to have freedom of speech.  It is fantastic that we have the ability to speak  what is heavy on our hearts to others.  Yet, it needs to be done in a way where others are not being condemned and belittled for their beliefs.  We can speak in a civil manner with respect for people who we disagree with.

The bottom line is that arguing and fighting is not a pleasant way to exist.  These behaviors actually are harmful to our health, and the health of our families.  In the publication, Psychological Science, a recent study showed that those who focused on warm, and compassionate thoughts about themselves and others were happier and healthier, due to how these behaviors affected the vagus nerve.  The vagus nerve regulates how efficiently heart rate changes with breathing.  The greater its tone, the higher the heart-rate variability and the lower the risk for cardiovascular disease and other major killers.  It may also play a role in regulating glucose levels and immune responses.  It also influences the release of oxytocin, a hormone that is important in social bonding. It has been found that the higher the vagus tone the greater closeness a person will experience with others, as well as having more altruistic behaviors.  Therefore, scientific research has shown that kindness definitely has many benefits for our bodies and our over-all health.

The Greek word for kindness, as used in the New Testament, means uprightness or benevolence and describes the ability to act for the welfare of those taxing our patience.  Kindness can be quite unnatural, since when we have been offended, we tend to react in anger or bitterness.  Kindness helps us to do just the opposite, in such cases- to respond with love and forgiveness.  Titus 3:4-5 states:

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we have done, but  because of His mercy.”

God shared His kindness to us by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to forgive us of our sins, and for His Spirit to dwell within us to help us with all of our struggles here on earth.  He asks us to share the kindness that He bestowed upon us, to others.  Ephesians 4:32 states:

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.”

1 Corinthians 13:4 gives us a fuller picture of kindness:

“Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”

In an article, entitled “Love One Another”, from Focus on the Family, the point is made that Jesus loved people:  thieves, prostitutes, tax collectors, sick people, poor people, wealthy people, children, and His followers.  He loved people who were devoted to Him and those who were different, difficult, and dangerous.  His love has not changed in over 2,000 years.  Since we are loved by Him, He calls us to love like Him.  He desires for us to:

  • Forgive one another- even when they don’t deserve it or ask for it.  This demonstrates a love that keeps no records of wrong.
  • Accept one another- to love like this one is patient and kind, even when someone doesn’t meet your expectations.
  • Honor one another- esteem others as highly valuable.

Our ability to love others comes from God.  We can only give love when our hearts are full of God’s love.

Listen to other statements about kindness from well-known personalities that I found on the blog,

  • “As much as we need a prosperous economy, we also need a prosperity of kindness and decency.”- spoken by Caroline Kennedy
  • “Constant kindness can accomplish much.  As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.” spoken by Albert Schweitzer
  • “Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” spoken by Princess Diana
  • “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” spoken by Mark Twain.
  • “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” spoken by Aesop
  • “For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.” spoken by Audrey Hepburn
  • “Here are the values that I stand for:  honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated and helping others in need.  To me those are traditional values.” spoken by Ellen DeGeneres
  • “But then there are magical, beautiful things in the world.  There’s incredible acts of kindness and bravery, and in the most unlikely places, and it gives you hope.” spoken by Dave Matthews

Consequently, it is up to each of us whether we choose to participate in acts of kindness or not.  We can choose to make a positive difference in our dark world by the specific things that we say or do.   As we demonstrate kindness to others, we model for our children how they can share it, as well.  And, we display how we can have hope in the midst of despair.

The writer of the blog,,shares a list of:

20 Simple Things You Can Do Everyday To Show Kindness

  1. SMILE
  2. Say a friendly hello to a stranger.
  3. Sincerely compliment someone.
  4. Favors:  Hold a door or pick up or carry something for another person.
  5. SMILE
  6. Say I love you to someone you love.
  7. Hug someone.
  8. High Five someone.
  9. Thank someone.
  10. SMILE
  11. Contribute 10 or more minutes to a good cause.
  12. Give something to someone- food, money, flowers, etc.
  13. Do an anonymous favor for a family member or friend.
  14. Make someone laugh.
  15. SMILE
  16. Defend someone.
  17. Express concern for someone with needs.
  18. Talk to someone shy or lacking in confidence.
  19. Do unto others as you would have them do to you.
  20. SMILE

I also found another article by Anna Ranson on her blog, The Imagination Tree.   Anna has a list of acts of kindness for kids.  I will share some of her well-intentioned ideas.

Acts of Kindness for Kids

  1. Feed the birds.
  2. Donate books to a doctor’s waiting room.
  3. Give magazines to a hospital.
  4. Bake cookies or cake and share with others.
  5. Tidy away toys.
  6. Make your bed.
  7. Pick up litter.
  8. Call Grandma and Grandpa.
  9. Donate toys and clothes to needy kids
  10. Send happy mail.
  11. Sort the laundry.
  12. Clear the table.
  13. Say Hello.
  14. Walk the dog.

I would like to add a few other ideas.

  • Help neighbors with yard work or getting their mail when they are traveling.
  • Tell a veteran thank you for his or her service to our country.
  • Bake cookies and/or make cards of appreciation and deliver them to our police force and our fire-fighters.
  • Visit a nursing home or rehab center and visit those in care, singing songs to them.
  • Visit the pet shelter and read a story to the pets.   The Miller Branch library has a program where children can participate in this venture.
  • Make a card for someone who is sick or has lost a loved one.
  • Visit and/or help make a meal for a family where one of the parents are in the military and have gone overseas.
  • Take care of a neighbor’s pet.
  • Look for opportunities where you can shed the light of kindness and hope to the people who cross your path.
  • Make homeless bags that include crackers, socks, hand sanitizer, tissues, and lotion, and then hand them out to the homeless people who you come across.
  • Pay for the person behind you at a fast food restaurant- paying it forward.

In closing, remember that kindness does matter in this world that we live in.  You can make someone’s day by sharing your light of kindness, encouragement, and hope.

May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand,

Debra Smith



























A New Beginning- 2017

Resolutions are goals that we make at the beginning of a new year to enable ourselves to improve in different areas of our lives.   For many of us, we make our promises, but after an elapsed period of time, our actions to better ourselves seem to putter out, and we lose our drive to continue on.   Sometimes this happens because we have declared multiple goals to work on, and other times it is because the effort to improve doesn’t seem worth it.

Nevertheless, the New Year offers us the opportunity to have a new beginning, a fresh sheet of paper, to set a goal and begin something new.   Here are some ideas that I gleaned from various resources, that I would like to share with you.

The blog, ahaparenting offers the following advice:

  • Pick one thing that feels do-able and commit yourself to it.
  • Start by supporting yourself.  Intention only takes you so far.  You have to address the feelings that drive your behavior.
  • Commit yourself on paper and in public.  Be brave and tell your family your intention.  It also helps to write down your goal and carry it with you.
  • Hone your desire- Why do you want this goal?  What will be different in your life when you achieve it?
  • Make a plan.  Break your goal into little pieces and accomplish them one at a time.
  • Take one small step every day.  Assign yourself a reasonable task for each day.  Put your daily tasks on your calendar.  Check off your daily progress.
  • Take one day at a time. Every day when you wake up, you need to re-commit yourself.
  • Make it a habit.  If you want to rewire your brain, work on your goal every day and take a positive action towards making your goal.
  • What about those days when you blow it?  Forgive yourself.  Review and think about what you can do next time to prevent failure again.
  • Review and revise.  Revise your plan if necessary.  Any goal worth achieving takes time and hard work.

Another writer, Mike Ashcroft, agrees with the topic of a one goal resolution for the year.  He became easily overwhelmed by his long list of  goals that he felt that he needed to be working on.  He stated that looking at the list of things he was supposed to do to live his  life right or well, or whatever all this was going to do for him, made him feel defeated.  He decided to drop his list of ways to get the most out of life, because he realized that he needed to find a new way to approach personal change.  He lost his list and chose one word to focus on for his year.  He allowed a single word to become the lens through which he examined his heart and life for a new year.  He states that the one goal resolution is easy, doable, and surprisingly powerful, mainly because it supplies narrowed focus.

Damselindior suggests implementing 5 unusual resolutions for a better life.

  1. Smile in the mirror to put yourself in a good mood.
  2. Write that down- Write down the things that make you happy in a journal.
  3. Snap it!  Taking a photo that represents your day can be a nice way to document your life.
  4. Say Hello.  Try saying “hello” to at least one stranger a day.
  5. Find Silence- End the day by having a quiet time before you go to bed.

In the blog, kidsinthehousethe writer offers 10 parenting resolutions for 2017.  They are:    

  1. Have less screen time- Limit the time your kids watch TV and use technology in your home.
  2. More listening- Practice your listening skills.
  3. Create new experiences- Children need exposure to new foods, people, and places.
  4. Take more photos of your kids- They are only this age once.
  5. Read more- The benefits of reading aloud to kids are innumerable.  Establishing the foundation of reading skills for your children will positively affect them for the rest of their lives.
  6. Make time for self-care- Parenting is stressful.  Don’t forget to take care of yourself and recharge.
  7. Get outside- Show your kids the value of an active lifestyle by getting outdoors and going on walks, or trips to the park.
  8. Build a community of parents- Build friendships with other parents through playdates, online communities, or gatherings of the school or community.
  9. Play more.  Unstructured play is one of the most invaluable tools to our children’s social, cognitive, and emotional development.
  10. Continue learning.  Parenting is an experience like no other.  It requires us to learn new things constantly.

Amanda from gatesinteriordesign compiled a list of goals that she suggested implementing for the year.  They are:

  • Unplug
  • Walk more
  • Shop with cash
  • Read 1 book a month
  • Be more creative
  • Honor my time
  • Save more
  • Get organized
  • Keep a food journal
  • Practice random acts of kindness
  • Start each day with 3 goals
  • Give more compliments
  • Write more thank-yous
  • Attitude of gratitude
  • Limit social media
  • Learn photography
  • Sleep more
  • Drink more water
  • Quit sugar

The blog, personalcreations  offers tips for a better 2017 in the areas of work life, health, general happiness, and productivity.  These tips include simple acts to improve these various areas of your life.

To Work Smarter

  • Move your alarm clock away from your bed so that you are forced to get up.
  • Clean up your inbox.  Unsubscribe from newsletters or blogs you don’t read anymore.
  • Organize your workspace.  Before ending your day spend a few minutes organizing so that you can start fresh the next day.
  • Carpool to work cuts down on gas money.
  • Start work early- You are the most productive at the beginning of the day.
  • Liven up your commute-Listen to podcasts or audiobooks to lift your mood.
  • Get a standing desk- Studies show that sitting for too long slows down your metabolism.
  • Stay sharp- Keep up with your industry trends by joining associations or attending conferences.
  • Research shows that 25 minutes on, 5 minutes off work periods improve productivity.

A Happier You

  • Wear more red- It can increase self-confidence.
  • Journal before going to sleep.
  • Revisit old photographs.
  • Volunteer- Besides the benefit of helping others, you’ll meet new people, build self-confidence, and develop new skills.
  • Call one friend or family member a day- Staying in touch with loved ones strengthens your relationships and makes you feel better.
  • Spend money on your experiences-Take a trip to somewhere new.
  • Plan weekends ahead of time- Anticipating a fun event boosts overall happiness.
  • Move closer to work- Avoid the hassle of commuting.

Improve Your Health

  • Drink ice water.
  • Put a fruit bowl on your counter.
  • Eat at the table, not in front of the TV.
  • Wear an activity tracker.
  • Try gardening.
  • Cut out soda.
  • Start your day by stretching.
  • Eat a protein filled breakfast.
  • Put unhealthy food low in your fridge.

Boost Productivity

  • Track your time.
  • Create a meal plan.
  • Take naps.
  • Push back your alarm clock one minute every day.
  • Get rid of time-wasting phone apps.
  • Play music instead of your TV.
  • Single-tasking- take a break from multi-tasking.
  • Make your bed every day.
  • Get your most difficult chores done first.

Adrienne for the blog, cleverpedia, suggests that instead of piling on all of your ambitions from the get-go, try your hand at the New You for the New Year Challenge, which challenges you to develop 12 good habits over the course of the entire year.   You will basically have a goal per month to focus on, and by the end of the year you will have 12 new habits that will benefit you for a lifetime.  Interesting idea!  Here is how it is set up:

  • JanuarySave more money. Cancel subscriptions you are not using.  Call your cable company and ask them to lower your bill.  Pack your lunch instead of buying it.  Make your coffee at home.
  • FebruaryPractice mindfulness.  Unplug more. Take one day off from social media per week. Smile more.  Savor your food more.  Don’t eat on the go, make it the main attraction.
  • MarchGet organized- Digitize your documents so that you can let go of paper copies. Purge your home of expired items: food, medicine, make-up. 
  • April- Take up an anti-stress activity.  Try coloring or start gardening.
  • MayEat more fruits and vegetables.  Keep healthy snacks on hand.  Get rid of salty or sugary snacks.
  • JuneValue experiences over things.  Get involved in local groups.  Experience more live music.  Plan a vacation, even if it is just a weekend getaway.
  • July- Drink more water.  Drink flavored water or herbal tea instead of soda.
  • AugustSwitch up your workouts.  Get in shape with a beginner program.  Use the machines at the gym.  Enroll in a fun fitness class like kickboxing, spinning, or Zumba.
  • September Learn a new skill.  You can find free tutorials for just about any instrument on YouTube.  Learn a new language.
  • OctoberProtect yourself.  Learn how to create a strong password. Resist broadcasting your vacations on social media.
  • NovemberControl portion sizes.  Use smaller dinner plates.  Less food will fill up a smaller plate.  Divide your plate up the healthy way- half veggies, one-quarter protein, and one-quarter starch.
  • DecemberPractice generosity. Make a commitment to volunteering.  Find a charity that you can donate to.

My favorite website, biblelovenotes, included a New Year’s Prayer to pray as you begin 2017.  I would like to close by sharing this beautiful prayer.

My New Year’s Prayer

May I discover new and wonderful things in Your Word. Psalm 119:18

May I listen more closely to Your voice.  Proverbs 8:32-34

May I forget what is behind and focus on what is ahead. Philippians 3:13-14

May I realize that Your love is greater than my mind can comprehend.                    Ephesians 3:17-19

May I experience Your peace that is beyond my understanding.  Philippians 4:6-7

May I trust You and not myself.  Proverbs 3:5-6

May my heart be more transformed by Your truth and less conformed to the world. Romans 12:1-2

May I forgive all who offend me.  Colossians 3:13

May I readily confess my sins to You.  1 John 1:9-10

May I confess my sins without excuse to those I’ve offended.  James 5:16

May I see Your purposes each day, each minute.  Ephesians 2:10

May I give You my all.  Philippians 3:7-14


May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand.

Debra Smith



































































































































































An Advent Adventure

The day-light hours are diminishing and the black nights cover the bare trees as the temperature drops and the frost appears.  We precede the beginning of the season of winter and embark upon the season of Advent.  Advent is a time of waiting.  It is a time of preparing and anticipating the celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

With all of the hustle and bustle of the season, it sure is easy to lose sight of the real reason that we are celebrating the holiday of Christmas.  With all of the many cultures and various religious groups who live together in our land we find it easier at this time of year to say “Happy Holidays” so that we won’t offend anyone.  We get so caught up in the buying of gifts, the holiday parties, the special shows, the decorations, tantalizing foods, and gathering together with family and friends.  We easily forget about that babe in the manger, who was born to set us free from sin and death.

Therefore I wanted to remind us of this Advent season, so that we can all joyfully prepare for the birth of the King.  In her blogBeing Confident of This,  Jen shared the idea that she learned about from a fellow blogger named Lana, who developed the Christmas Adventure Box for a Kid-Friendly Advent experience for her family.  The idea of the box is to use the ideas in the box daily or several times weekly to help the family remember the Greatest Gift of All, Jesus.  This family Advent plan takes literally less than an hour to organize and the activities take as little as 5 minutes or as long as 20-30 minutes, depending on how involved you wish to make it.  When I read about this idea, I was all thumbs up!!

Here is the link to find out about how you can implement the Christmas Adventure Box in your family traditions.

The Christmas Adventure Box

Ann Voskamp, a noted Christian author and blogger, recently wrote in a post on her blog that one of her children asked her a poignant question as she was tucking him in for bed one night, “What does Jesus get for his birthday?”    The question stopped her in the midst of her nightly duties and the words hung in the air.  She groped for an answer.  Her son continued:  “Why don’t we give up things so we can give to Jesus for His birthday?”  She thought, is it always this way that a little child will lead them?  Her son was only 5 at that time.  He is 17 now.  She states that since that time her family has done all Christmases since this way- giving away.  For the Birthday Child tells us what He wants:  Give to the least of these is giving to Me.  So, for her family, they each choose one gift for He who is Christmas.  They pick gifts from Compassion Catalog, Samaritan’s Purse,  and World Vision.  They give to the least of these.  For their family that is the same as giving to Jesus.  If you would like to contribute to these charities, their websites are listed below:

Some of the ladies in my church have come up with a unique way of helping the less fortunate in our neighborhoods.  We have the homeless who are often at our stoplights or at some of our well-traveled areas.  As a result,the ladies and some of our small groups have made bags that we can carry in our cars to hand out to the homeless that we come across in our community.  The bags are quart-sized zip-lock bags.  They are filled with the following items that our children can help us with:

  • snack packs of peanut-butter crackers
  • flip-top cans of “Beanie-Weenies” or “Vienna Sausages”
  • comb
  • toothbrush and small toothpaste
  • small hand lotion
  • packets of hand sanitizer
  • hand warmers
  • chapstick
  • small soap
  • pair of socks
  • $1.00
  • A message that tells them that God loves them.

For Christmas we could even add a candy cane or some Christmas cookies.  What a wonderful way of reaching out to the least of these!

Another post that I discovered listed 50 Acts of Kindness by Kids for Advent.  I am going to list some of my favorites.  They were from the blogMum in the Madhouse.

  • Donate a coat to charity leaving a happy note in the pocket.
  • Donate to the local or church food bank
  • Make Christmas cards for your neighbors, especially ones you may not know.
  • Leave change in the vending machine.
  • Sort through your toys and donate those you no longer play with to charity.
  • Sharpen the pencils in your house.
  • Write a letter to your sibling telling them why you love them.
  • Leave a beautiful homemade bookmark in your library book and give one to the librarian.
  • Deliver cookies to your neighbor.
  • Clean up your bedroom without being asked.
  • Send thank you notes to houses with beautiful lights thanking them for lighting up their houses.
  • Sit next to someone you don’t normally sit next to at lunch and be nice to them.
  • Make a bird feeder and leave out water for birds.
  • Send a care package to someone in the military.
  • Choose 3 of your toys to give to children in local hospitals
  • Pass on some of your books to friends or donate them to your school library.
  • Write thank you notes to your teachers, coaches, and people who have influenced you.
  • Help an elderly neighbor or friend with their yard or decorations.
  • Give a compliment to someone today.
  • Give out free hugs today.
  • Hold the doors open for people throughout the day.
  • Smile all day.
  • Let someone go in front of you in line.
  • Introduce yourself to someone new and chat with them.

It brought me gladness in writing each of these acts of kindness on my computer.  Implementing these acts in your life would put a smile on your face and the face of the person you were being kind to.  Just try them and see!

I discovered another post on my quest for ideas for Advent.  I found 25 Christ-Centered Christmas Traditions on a blog entitled, Prac Perfeccionista.  Here are some of my favorites:

  • Set out a child-friendly Nativity set for play.
  • Buy Nativity cookie cutters to use for baking cookies.
  • Make puppets and re-enact the Christmas story.
  • Make a paper chain to count down the days until Christmas with a Bible verse on each link.
  • Instead of a gingerbread house, make a Nativity.
  • Make an Advent wreath and light the candles each night together and read the Bible preparing for the coming of the King.
  • Attend a Christmas church service together.
  • Make an Advent calendar- instead of using candy, insert papers with ways you can serve someone each day.
  • Read Christ-centered Christmas books during the Advent season.
  • Make and use a Jesse tree during Advent.
  • Cook Christmas recipes from different countries and pray for the people of these countries to come to know Christ.
  • Participate in an Angel Tree project.
  • When hanging Christmas lights, talk about Jesus being the “light of the world”.
  • Read the Christmas story together on Christmas Eve or Christmas day.
  • Make a birthday cake for Jesus and sing “Happy Birthday Jesus” on Christmas Day.
  • Go to a Christmas Eve service and attend church on Christmas Day.

One of my most treasured family traditions that we began after the grandchildren were born was that of re-enacting the Christmas story in a family Christmas play where we all participated.  We borrowed costumes from our church, and I found a script on-line, where we could all be characters.  Of course there was Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, the shepherds, the wise men, an angel, and of course, the donkey.  Then we had a narrator who told the story and a person who was a character and also video-taping the play, so that we could view it later.  We have had so much enjoyment participating in the play as a family.  The grandchildren have learned the story, while having fun with their cousins playing various roles throughout the years.

My final favorite Advent activity is that of going caroling.  I love to sing, especially Christmas carols.  I will have to admit that there is nothing as gratifying  as going into a nursing home and visiting the elderly who are lonely and often grieving for the loved ones who have passed away before them, and seeing their entire demeanor change as they hear “Silent Night” being sung.  They usually begin singing, with tears streaming down their faces and joy radiates from their eyes as they listen to the melody of the carol.  As we visit with the people you can  sense that God used you to truly brighten another person’s day.  What a blessing!

I will end my post with 12 Christmas Prayers from Dwellar.

  1. FAITH-“Father God, It is by Your grace we have been saved, and through our faith- this is not from ourselves, but a gift from You- not by our works.”   Ephesians 2:8-9
  2. HOPE-“May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in Hope.”  Romans 15:4
  3. LOVE- “Help us to love because You first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
  4. FORGIVENESS- “Thank you for being faithful and just in forgiving us our sins and thus purifying us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
  5. MERCY-  “Let us be merciful, just as our Father is merciful.”  Luke 6:36
  6. KINDNESS-“Let us be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as through Jesus, You forgave us.”  Ephesians 4:32
  7. GENEROSITY- “Let us be enriched in every way to be generous in every way and to give the glory and thanks to you Lord!”  2 Corinthians 9:11
  8. COMPASSION-“Let us live in harmony with one another, be sympathetic and compassionate, love as brothers, and be humble.” 1Peter 3:8
  9. JOY-  “Let us be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”  Romans 12:12
  10. SALVATION-  “Thank you for providing Jesus who is the way, the truth, the life and the only way to You.”  John 14:5
  11. OBEDIENCE- “Help us to not merely listen to Your Word, and so deceive ourselves.  Help us do what it says.”  James 1:22-25
  12. LIFE- “Thank you for coming that we may have life, and have it to the full.”  John 10:10


It is my desire that you and all of your loved ones will have a very Merry Christmas.

May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand,

Debra Smith









A Heart of Gratitude

After all of the masquerades and sensory experiences of Halloween, the month of November silently tiptoes in.  This year the trees are at their peak with the vibrant hues of the blushing, crimson maples and the golden, stately oaks adorning our skylines and our yards.  November is a month of contrasts for me.  Being the month of my birthday, it should be seen as my favorite month.  Nevertheless, the month has been a time where loved ones have passed away: my father-in-law and my grandson.  Therefore, those occurrences have made the month bittersweet.  Thankfully, the Lord in His loving kindness gave me another grandson and a niece whose birthdays are in November to celebrate, and many friends who share the same birth month.

We also celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving during the month of November, a time to be thankful to God for what He has done for us.  I have found that having a thankful heart, alters our attitude towards life.  When we become thankful for the things that we have, we become less grumpy about the things that we don’t possess.  Gratitude transforms the heart and brings happiness and contentedness.  It is a gift that we can present to ourselves that enables us to reach out to others with compassion and give to them in return.

In her blog, Creativehomekeeper,  Victoria Osborn states in her post 30 Days of Thanksgiving that:  “Gratitude and thanksgiving are essentially one in the same: having a thankful heart, giving thanks, and sharing our blessings.  It’s a discipline that has been around a long time.  Over and over in the Bible there are countless verses offering thanksgivings to God.”

  • “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His love endures forever.”  1 Chronicles 16:34
  • “I will give thanks to the Lord because of His righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High.”  Psalm 7:17
  • “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.” Psalm 100:4
  • Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  Philippians 4:6
  • “Let the Message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”  Colossians 3:16

Victoria continues to share that:  “November is a month of Thanksgiving and celebration of the harvest, all of God’s blessings and the life He has freely given us.  Practicing gratitude and giving thanks should be something that we do every day.”  Victoria suggests that November is the perfect time to begin the spiritual discipline of counting our gifts.  We can spend the next 30 days really searching for all of the ways that we have been blessed.  What a fantastic idea!  Before all of the hubbub of the Christmas season where it is so easy to be overwhelmed by all of the unending gift lists.  November is a quiet and reflective time to focus on what we have been given.  Many times these items may be intangible, yet very real to us, indeed!

“From the big…where you were cured from cancer, reunited with estranged family, did you accept God’s gift of salvation?”

“To the small…the giggles of your children, holding hands with your husband, and inside joke with two friends, a good book.”

“Give it all to God.  When we spend time counting the gifts, we spend time in communion with Him.”

Victoria shares some simple ways to start the practice of daily Thanksgiving.

  1. Start a Thanksgiving journal–  Everyday spend a few minutes writing out as many gifts as you can think and don’t be afraid to include everyday things
  2. Write one thing you are thankful for each day- on a small sheet of paper and placer it in a jar.  At the end of the month, open the jar up and read through your gifts.
  3. Make a Thankful tree with your children- Grab a large stick or tree branch from outside and place it in a vase on the table.  Along with your children, each day adorn it with a small token of gratitude or have your young children draw a picture.
  4. Read a book on gratitude-My personal favorite one is Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.  It also includes a 30 day devotional in the back.
  5. Do a word study. Using a concordance or Bible dictionary, spend the next 30 days looking up all of the verses in the Bible with the words thanks, thankful. blessing, gratitude, or thanksgiving in them.
  6. Complete a Bible study. Join the She Reads Truth gratitude online Bible Study. You don’t need to purchase the study pack to participate.  Or there are other online Bible study resource materials, such as: YouVersion Bible App, the First 5, Hello Morning Girls, just to name a few.
  7. Pick a few Bible verses on gratitude to memorize this month.   Write them out, journal through them, pray them, speak them and let the words marinate your heart.

As an educator for 25 years I have literally witnessed our society lose any sense of civility towards one another.  In its place has been a sense of entitlement.  “I am owed this.”   “You are supposed to do this for me…”  Common courtesy has appeared to fly out the window.  November is the perfect month, as we are focusing on showing gratitude and thankfulness to focus on common courtesy.  In my opinion, it is of utmost importance for parents and teachers to teach our children the basic rules of courtesy, which are:

  • Saying please and thank you.  “May I please have a drink?”  “Thank you for helping me.”
  • Helping others.  Holding the door open for mom.  Helping take in the groceries.  Children opening the door at the store for an elderly person.   Children giving their seat to an older person and sitting on the floor.  
  • Using the bathroom properly, putting the paper in the toilet and then flushing the toilet.  Putting the seat down.  Then  washing hands afterwards and turning off the water and lights.
  •  Pushing the chair under the table after they get up from dinner.  Taking their plate to the sink and helping with the dishes at dinner time.
  •  Greeting adults by saying “Hello” and looking them in the eyes when they are being spoken to.  Learning how to shake hands and introduce yourself to a new acquaintance.
  • Showing respect to parents and adults.  Children obey their parents and other adults.  They do not say disrespectful words to parents or other adults.
  • Children do chores at home as being part of a family.
  • The basic rule of thumb is The Golden Rule- “You treat others like you want to be treated.”

In the blog, Martysmusings, the author states in her post, Family Blessing Jar, Teach Your Children Gratitude,that you take one day at a time and try the following tips for instilling gratitude in your children.”

  • Start young.  Even small children  can be taught to say thank you to God through their prayers, songs, and words.
  • Reinforce.  Point out to your children the many ways you are thankful to God for His provision, His love and your family.
  • Model a thankful heart.  Tell your children and spouse thank you for the gift of their lives each day.
  • Encourage your children to say thank you and “catch” each other doing acts of service.
  • As the children get older, have them look up scriptures on Thanksgiving and write the verses out.  Use them in art projects or as special presents for friends or family members

November, a month where each one of us can fill our hearts to the brim with gratitude.  Isn’t that a marvelous manner in which to spend each day of this tranquil month before we begin the rapture of Advent in December?  Come join me in giving thanks.

Here are some resources to enrich your month of gratitude.

Count Your Blessings Tree

Family Blessings Jar

May you have a Thanksgiving filled with thankfulness and gratitude for all that you have been given.

In the palm of His hand,

Debra Smith














Amazing Autumn

As I was driving down the road earlier this week I was literally amazed at the colorful landscape that was before me.  Suddenly the green and brown oak and maple trees seemed to leap out of the ground as their foliage turned into bright reds, yellows, and oranges.  It was as if overnight, God had taken his paintbrush and repainted our world!  I had such an ecstatic feeling welling up inside of me, as I gasped at the beauty of God’s magnificent plan of the changing of seasons.  I reminded myself of all of the attributes of the season of autumn that are so enchanting to me, such as the crisp air, the harvest season, hayrides, apple pie, sweater weather,  gathering nuts, a time of gratitude and thanksgiving, building fires in the fireplace, apple cider, and I could ramble on and on.

When I was teaching, fall was the busiest season for teachers.  It was the first quarter when first and second grade teachers were occupied getting to know their students.  The teachers spent a large portion of time assessing the students in reading and math.  Then came report cards and conferences all in the first quarter.  Being a type A personality, I would spend hours preparing and working with my students, and I would miss out on the beauty of the season of autumn.  By the time I would leave from work it would be evening.  Now that I am retired, I am thankful that I have the time to enjoy this spectacular season, that for so many years I was unable to fully savor.

Therefore, it is my desire to give my readers some ideas for Fall activities with your families.  I have found a wealth of information from my ever-ready favorite resource: Pinterest.  So, hold on to your hat, and let’s get going!

In the blogThe Better Mom, the author, Angela Richter has written a post entitled, “20 Fun Family Fall Activities”.  She lists the following as her ideas of fun activities:

  1. Go to a corn maze.
  2. Have a bonfire.
  3. Go on a hayride.
  4. Take a fall drive.
  5. Curl up with a great book.
  6. Do a fun fall craft.
  7. Make caramel apples.
  8. Visit a pumpkin patch.
  9. Have a fall picnic.
  10. Carve pumpkins together.
  11. Have fun with the leaves.
  12. Have a movie night.
  13. Prepare a crock pot recipe.
  14. Visit a farm.
  15. Take a fall photo together.
  16. Make S’mores.
  17. Visit an orchard and pick apples.
  18. Make a Thankful Tree.
  19. Start a Gratitude Journal.
  20. Go to a Fall Festival.

The blog, Graceful Little Honey Bee, written by S. Borisov has a post  entitled “35 Fun Fall Activities For Kids”.  She has included on what she calls “Her Family Bucket List” some other activities that were not listed above.  They are:

  1. Make apple butter.
  2. Make homemade apple pie.
  3. Go hiking.
  4. Go horseback riding.
  5. Go camping.
  6. Make pumpkin muffins.
  7. Roast hot dogs.
  8. Roast marshmallows.
  9. Collect leaves.
  10. Make a handprint tree.
  11. Eat candy corn.
  12. Go on a scavenger hunt.
  13. Go tailgating.
  14. Collect acorns.
  15. Make a paper spider.
  16. Read fall-themed books.
  17. Go star-gazing with a blanket.
  18. Watch football.
  19. Make homemade bread.
  20. Play flag football.
  21. Go on a nature walk.
  22. Make homemade pumpkin puree.
  23. Toast pumpkin seeds
  24. Paint pumpkins.
  25. Help decorate for the fall.

I know that when I was a young girl I loved to collect leaves and figure out what kind of leaf that each one that I discovered was.  I remember my mom helping me iron each individual leaf between 2 pieces of waxed paper to seal it and then I put each leaf in a booklet, where I labeled the leaves.  Of course, the opaque waxed paper prevented me from really seeing the beauty of the leaf.  I did the same with my sons and we made leaf books.  It was a delightful activity that my sons enjoyed.

Trish Sutton, on her website,, has created a Nature Scavenger Hunt that would provide an exciting afternoon outside for your family.  I have the printable to go along with her scavenger hunt at the end of this post.

I located another scavenger hunt on the blog, Growing Hands-on Kids.  This scavenger hunt is entitled a “Fall Senses Scavenger Hunt”.   For this hunt the kids are using their senses to find different items.  The children will look for certain items, touch and feel particular things, listen for crunching leaves, a crackling fire, and so on.  Then the children will taste apple cider, fresh apples, and smell pine needles,  and apple cider.  Finally they will move through nature by jumping over a log, running and jumping in a pile of leaves, and so forth.  This specific hunt is done indoors and outdoors.  It will take a longer period of time and provide an afternoon of delight.  I have the printable to go along with this hunt at the end of my post, as well.

Autumn, a wondrous season, filled with God’s brilliant handiwork, that can be visibly seen throughout the panoramic scenery all around us.   We cannot help but be thankful for a God who provides for His children.

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  1 Thessalonians 5:18

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful.”  Colossians 3:15

Here are some resources for your Fun Fall Activities:

Nature Scavenger Hunt

Fall Senses Scavenger Hunt

Easy Fall Crafts

In the palm of His hand,

Debra Smith






















Words….They Do Make a Difference

This past week the issue of “words that were stated” has taken over the news.  Careless words hastily spoken can have a lasting affect on people’s lives, especially the lives of children.  There is the traditional adage of “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!”  Unfortunately this saying is not true.  Words do hurt.  In fact, words crush, deflate, separate people, cause all manner of conflict, resentment, shame, betrayal, and I could go on and on.

Therefore, it is of utmost importance for the parents in today’s world to realize the power that their words have in their children’s lives.  The words that parents express to their children are words that will either build them up and encourage them, or words that will cause them to hesitate out of fear of not measuring up to expectations.  Words that will vocalize the warmth of love and acceptance or utter the coldness of anger and negativism.  Which words do you desire for your children to carry in their memory banks as adults?

In the blog, Parenting From Scratch, I found a post entitled, “Encouraging Things to Say to Kids”.  The post began with a quote from Rudolph Driekurs

“A child needs encouragement like a plant needs water.”

After being an educator for 27 years, I will have to agree with Driekurs statement.  A child does need encouragement like a plant needs water.   In fact a child is as thirsty for encouragement, craving and longing for it;  as a sponge takes in water,  soaking it in deeply, so that it fills his or her being.  I have found that encouragement is the best way to relate to and teach children.   As children are being encouraged with the positive steps that they are making in whatever small task that they are undertaking, that paves the way for the more difficult and tedious tasks where they may need more help and instruction.

The author of the post states: “Rather than saying “Good job, that makes me so happy,” I try to find a way to focus on their efforts.  In short, encouraging statements keep the task/action/problem/accomplishment about the child, not about the parent. Every positive discipline tool is designed to encourage children, help them feel capable, and connect us closer to each other.  All of the following phrases acknowledge and appreciate something positive about a child and are encouraging words to hear:

  • I love you.
  • I’m sure you can find a way to solve this problem.
  • Boy, you have worked so hard on that!  It really shows.
  • I have faith that you will figure it out.
  • I know that you don’t like doing this, and I thank you for doing it anyway.  It really helps.
  • The amount of detail that you added to this drawing makes it seem so life-like.
  • You must feel really proud of yourself right now!
  • I’ve noticed that you have been working really hard at learning to cut your own food.
  • You did it!
  • Thank you for putting all of your towels in the laundry basket.  It helps us get ready much faster.
  • Trust yourself.
  • It sounds like your body is trying to tell you something.
  • I noticed how long you stuck with that.
  • You have a right to feel angry.
  • I can tell that some special mom/dad time would help you right now.
  • How do you feel about what you have accomplished?
  • I appreciate your cooperation.
  • Thanks for helping.
  • What do you think?
  • What do you need to accomplish your goal?
  • I’m listening.
  • That was hard for you; thank you!
  • I can see you are really angry right now, and that’s O.K.
  • What would you do about it?
  • I just want to sit and be close to you for a few minutes.
  • It’s O.K. to be sad.
  • I appreciate your setting the table so neatly.
  • WOW!
  • I know you are upset.  I would be too.
  • You can  try again tomorrow.
  • What is your understanding of what needs to happen?
  • Your piggy bank is getting really full; it must have taken you a long time to save all that.
  • You decide.
  • I have faith that we can find a respectful solution.
  • Look at what you have accomplished!
  • You are capable.
  • Thank you for getting dressed so quickly.
  • I noticed that you gave your toy to that boy when he was sad.  I bet it helped him feel better.
  • What is your plan for getting this done?
  • I’m sorry.
  • I love you.
  • Lead the way.

What wonderful examples that we were presented from the blog of positive words to utilize with our children!

On the other hand, let me pass on a selection of phrases that you should never say to your kids.  These phrases appeared in a post that I viewed on Facebook that originally came from Redbook Magazine.  The article was entitled“50 Things You Should Never, Ever Say to Your Kids” by Betsy Farrell.  Here are some of the statements that I found to be most noteworthy.

  • B” is fine but an “A” is better.
  • You make me so mad!
  • Don’t eat that or you’ll get FAT!
  • You’re FAT!
  • I’m so FAT I need to go on a DIET!
  • I used drugs/smoked when I was a kid.
  • It’s not that big of a deal.
  • You’re so lazy!
  • Why do I have to tell you everything 100 times?
  • Big boys/girls don’t get scared.
  • Stop being such a BABY!
  • You’re being RIDICULOUS!
  • Stop being so SELFISH and NEEDY!
  • You better do what I say or else!
  • It’s MY  WAY or the HIGHWAY!
  • That’s the way I WAS RAISED and I turned out fine.
  • I hate it when you…(Insert bad behavior here.)
  • Shame on you!
  • UGH!  You’re just like your mother/father!
  • I told you so!
  • I wish you were more like…( Insert other kid’s name here.)
  • Why can’t you be more like your sister/brother?
  • That’s not good enough!

I literally was cringing as I was typing the statements above.  They wounded my heart and spirit just expressing them on the page.  I have seen the power that statements such as these have had on children’s lives.  Children have grown up with poor self-esteem; filled with shame and guilt, unsure of their own talents and abilities.  They have grown into adults who were often angry at the world and others, or angry at themselves for never measuring up.

Thus, it’s in your hands, parents, what “words” that you want to resonate in your children’s heads.  Words of praise that establish a good self-esteem and are uplifting, or words that can be stated carelessly that wound the heart and cause shame.

Additionally, I have found that when I have based my identity on the words that are found in the Bible, that my mind has been transformed.  I rise to a new level, finding my identity from who God says that I am.  These Biblical concepts, when stated and explained to my children have had lasting effects in their lives.  For these words were not from the lips of parents, but from the breath of God; from the Creator who created our children and knows them more intimately than anyone on earth.  God’s words were meant to intersect with our children’s lives; because He desires a relationship with each of them.  He loves them and has a plan for a hope and a future for every child born on this planet.  

  • For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11
  • I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”  Jeremiah 31:3
  • Love never fails.”  1 Corinthians 13:8
  • Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17
  • “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self- control.  Against such things there is no law.”  Galatians 5:22-23
  • For He Himself is our peace.”  Ephesians 2:14
  • Be imitators of God, therefore as dearly loved children, and live a life of love just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”  Ephesians 5:1-2
  • “Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure children of God without a fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.”  Philippians 2:14-15
  • “And this is my prayer that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ.”  Philippians 1:9-10
  • “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4:11-13

Here are some resources that may be helpful.

64 Positive Things to Say to Kids

Positive Affirmation Notes for Kids: Lunchbox Love

10 Simple Bible Verses for Young Children


May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand.

Debra Smith













Hello Again! I’m Back!

Salutations!  I have finally returned to my blog.  I’m filled to the brim with excitement about getting into the groove of writing again!  This first year of retirement has been a time of many transitions and changes.  Continued health issues have been challenges that I have had to face.  Now that I am beginning my 2nd year of retirement my circumstances are looking up!  I am thrilled to be able to sit down at my computer and write this post on my blog.

Goodness gracious!  So much has happened in our world since I last posted.  It almost seems like we live in another galaxy.  Our nation is in such an unbelievable mess!  Whether you are on the left or the right, black or white, we all have to admit that we have problems in our country.  Our dilemmas have no easy fix.  Nevertheless, these predicaments are issues that have to be faced and tackled.  If the leaders of our country can’t figure out how to solve them,  we need to start problem solving them in our own little corner of our communities and neighborhoods.

So, how do we implement our problem solving in our own little corners?  What exactly do we do as parents, grandparents, and young adults?

Robert Fulghum in his book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten  tells us to:

  • Share everything
  • Play fair
  • Don’t hit people
  • Put things back where you found them
  • Clean up your own mess
  • Don’t take things that are not yours
  • Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody
  • Live a balanced life
  • Learn some and think some
  • Draw and paint and sing and dance
  • Play and work every day some
  • Take a nap every afternoon
  • When you go out into the world watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
  • Be aware of wonder
  • Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup.  The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.  Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the cup- they all die.  So do we.
  • Then remember the Dick and Jane books and the first word you learned- the biggest word of all- LOOK.

Oh, if we all could be like kindergarteners again, and abide by their classroom rules! Would our world be a better place?  It certainly would be a good place to start.  With our kindergarten core values listed above.  Yet there needs to be more, doesn’t there?  I loved it that Robert Fulghum lists that the kids learned the word “look”.  Where do the kids need to look to as to learn their behavior?  Their parents, grandparents, teachers and other caretakers involved in their lives.   For children learn the most from what they see than from what they hear- from what is modeled before them, than from what is verbally taught.

I found a fantastic post about this very subject on one of my favorite blogs, Thriving Home. The post is entitled, “Character is Caught, Not Taught”.

The author states “that it is impossible for us to know what is going to make an impression on our kids.   We don’t know when they are watching us closely or are oblivious to what we are doing.  We don’t know what small moments may impact their lives.  But we do know that these moments are happening.  Our kids are”:

  • Soaking up our attitude towards work
  • Our response to trials
  • The way we talk about people when they aren’t there
  • The way we use our money
  • The way we handle conflict with our spouse or friends
  • The way we treat strangers
  • How we respond when we are frustrated

“They are watching it all and are being shaped by the small and every day moments. Not the big ones.”

So, the author asked herself– “Am I living out the values I am teaching?”

  • I tell them to share their toys but am I being generous with my possessions and time?
  • I remind them to be thankful but how many times a day do I complain?
  • I instruct them to use a respectful tone but what am I sounding like when I am irritated?
  • I tell them to be patient but how do I respond when things don’t go my way?

She continues saying “that there is no such thing as a perfect parent.  In fact our imperfections are a great opportunity to point kids towards our need for God’s daily grace in our lives.  As parents, it is important that we look at our own behavior through the eyes of our kids. What are they seeing?  What are they hearing?”

“When they misbehave, maybe ask if they have possibly learned that from you.  Rather than just telling them not to do it, find a way to identify with the struggle and model how to fight the sin.  The good news is they not only pick up on the bad stuff, but they pick up on the good stuff, too.”

“Show them how to love, when it’s undeserved. Show them how to take a deep breath when you are growing impatient rather than lash out, Show them how to serve without demanding recognition.  Show them how to care for people around you.  Don’t just tell them- ask God to help you show them what integrity and character looks like in the mundane, small moments of the day.”

I know that when I began parenting that I was at an impasse.  There were some patterns that my parents had modeled that I wanted to use in my parenting and some that I knew that I had to discard.  I had dreamed of being a “Mommy” for so many years.  I had a “Memory Bank” that was loaded with images of parenting models that I wanted to adapt and use in my own repertoire.  I also had friends who had become mothers before I had become pregnant who had lit the pathway before me.  I read a plethora of parenting books to find my style of parenting and discipline.  It was James Dobson’s Dare to Discipline and Dorothy Corkille Brigg’s Your Child’s Self Esteem, as well as the Ilg and Ames books on Child Development, that I chose so that I would know what behaviors were to be expected at specific ages.

Mercy me!  Parenting is the most important job in the world!  We are raising the next generation.  I took this job seriously.  I became a member of a Child Book Study Group and a Mom’s Group.  I took Parenting Courses as they were offered, and I started a Mom’s Prayer Group.

I have found that the Bible has the best wisdom on raising children.

Deuteronomy 6:5-9 speaks of modeling.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Proverbs 22:6 is another poignant verse.

“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it.”

My favorite verse on modeling is the Golden Rule found in Matthew 7:12

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

I will have to say that I recently crossed the path of a former student.  We both stood there for a few seconds, acknowledging in our minds that we knew each other, but trying to figure out names and places.  Finally- Bingo!  My former student stated: “Mrs. Smith, my second grade teacher.  You were the one who taught us about the Golden Rule.”    I was ecstatic!  Nothing could have made me happier than a student remembering that fact about me.  I hoped that she internalized that rule in her own life, making it a guideline for how she related with other people, thus making a difference in her little corner of her world.

Jim Henson the creator of the Muppets stated:  “The attitude that you have as a parent is what your kids will learn from, more than what you tell them.  They don’t remember what you try to teach them.  They remember what you are.”

Here are some resources that you might find helpful on your parenting journey:

5 Ways Parents Can Be a Model to Kids

13 Ways to be a Good Role Model

The Parent You Want to Be

May God keep you in the palm of His hand,

Debra Smith


















































































































































I Have A Dream

In recent days racism has reared its ugly head in my neighborhood; in the high school that my sons attended, the school a few blocks from my home, where five of my grandchildren will be attending in the future years.  It was stunning to hear a student verbalize prejudicial epithets against the African American race.  His words were filled with anger and hatred.  I was shocked that a student could be laden with such animosity against another race.  I was in disbelief that this was occurring at “my” high school.  When my sons had attended there, they had African American friends who were frequently coming over to our home, to play basketball, street hockey, or video games. Everyone would congregate in the house laughing and having a good time.  They never spoke of the school having racial issues.  Howard County was a place where many people of different races came to live and they seemed to be living together peacefully, accepting each other’s differences.  There were kids from China, Korea, India, Africa, Turkey, Russia, and the Middle East in my son’s classes in school, as well as African American and Caucasian students.  So, kids in Howard County were used to diversity and accepting differences in other students.  At least, this was all from my perspective.  I was also a first grade teacher who taught for 25 years and the elementary students on my level were accustomed to classrooms filled with kids from all ethnicities.  My classroom often looked like a mini- United Nations!

Therefore, it was difficult for me to wrap my brain around the recent racial incident, except for the fact that our culture seems to have reverted in some ways back to the 1960’s in regards to racial issues, if you look at all of the events that have occurred that have prompted the “Black Lives Matter” movement.  There have been many circumstances that have taken place where African Americans have been discriminated against, where they have not been treated fairly.  As a “white” American I cannot fully understand what that means; to be overlooked, to not be chosen, to be profiled, because of my color.  Nevertheless, as a believer in Christ, I know that it is not right to be prejudiced.  For Christ said to “Love my neighbor as myself.” Matthew 22:39

Let’s face the reality. Our society is broken.  It is a literal mess.  There is no easy fix for the mess that we are in.   Yet, in the midst of our brokenness, there is hope.  There is a light in the darkness.  We can have a dream, just like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream.  His speech, I Have A Dream has always been an inspiration to me.  It can encourage us today.  I am going to share some excerpts from his speech.

                                                   I   HAVE    A    DREAM

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident:  that all men are created equal.”   I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.  I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.  I have a dream today that little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.  I have a dream today.  This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.  Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”  And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last!  Free at last!  Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Every time that I read Dr. King’s speech I get overcome with emotions and begin weeping.  God gifted Dr. King with the ability to so eloquently express God’s own heart and vision and desire for mankind.  That of having every nationality, every creed, every religion joining hands and living together peacefully.  Yet, we are only free to do that when we look at the rest of Matthew 22:37-39

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it:  Love your neighbor as yourself.”

When we love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind, He gives us the ability to love others as ourselves.  He enables us to treat others with love and kindness.  He literally makes us the light of the world to shine through the darkness and the mess in our own communities.  So that where we see prejudice and unfair situations, we can intervene.  We can start discussions with others about how we can make changes in our own small corners of the world.  

In my community’s situation my church decided to step in and make a difference.  We had a Prayer Vigil for Prayers Against Prejudice in regards to the high school situation.  We began the service listening to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream’s” speech.  Then we sang moving worship songs.  Next we listened to 4 speakers who spoke on prejudice, and between each speaker, we prayed.  It was a very moving service.

Along these lines, what can you do as a parent to help guard your child’s heart against prejudice?

Melanie Pinola shares some important points for us to remember in her article, “How to Talk About Race With Your Kids”.  She states that it would be wonderful if we could say to our kids that people might look different and come from different places, but we’re all equal and should be treated the same, and just leave it at that.  But, she mentions that if recent news has taught us anything, it is not so simple.  We need to face the topics of race and racism head on.

She continues saying that the race conversation is so important because kids notice from an early age that other kids are similar or different than they are– in every way they can be alike or or not, because this is how they figure where they fit in the world.  Racial identification plays a large part in our self-esteem, how others treat us, and how we function in society.

Parents sometimes avoid discussing race because they think young children don’t even see race or won’t understand racism, but the critical period for starting the conversation is the five-to eight year old stage, says.  In all likelihood, the subjects will come up unprompted with your children at this early age, out of their natural curiosity.  You might be mortified if your young child makes a crude observation out loud about someone else being different, but instead of shushing them, use these opportunities to reinforce the lesson that different is both normal and good.  This can turn into a beautiful learning opportunity.

Martin Luther King Day, Black History Month, Chinese New Year, and other events are good times to approach the subject.  You could discuss what the kids have been learning in school, what they thought and felt about those subjects and take the conversation further.  Even though schools talk about racial issues, it is important that you as a family talk about these issues with your kids up through the teenage years.

You always need to meet the child where he or she is first. Try to find out what prompted your kids’ comments or questions about race- school incidents, something they read or experienced?  Then further the discussion with questions like“How do you feel about that?  or “Why do you think that?  

Try to respond in nonjudgmental ways and stick to the facts.  Talk about the fact that the social world that we live in is often unfair to people of color, just because of their color, and that the persistent racial-ethnic inequalities are unjust and morally wrong.

For parents of kids of all colors it is a good idea to celebrate the differences and benefits of your culture.  One study shows that teaching kids, especially black kids to take pride in their culture is an integral part of their success.

All people are valuable and worthy of respect.  Have diverse friends.  Be a good role model.

In the book, Beyond the Golden RuleA Parent’s Guide to Preventing and Responding to Prejudice by Dana Williams  the author gives 5 Tips to Parents

  1. Model it.  Talk to your child about the importance of embracing differences and treating others with respect.  Remember, it is your actions, subtle or overt, that your child will emulate.
  2. Acknowledge differences.  Rather than teaching children that we are all the same, acknowledge the many ways that people are different and emphasize the positive aspects of our differences– language diversity and various music and artistic styles.  Likewise, be honest about instances, historical and current, where people have been mistreated because of their differences.  Encourage your children to talk about what makes each of them different, and discuss ways that may have helped or hurt them at times.  After that, finding similarities becomes even more powerful, creating a sense of common ground.
  3. Challenge intolerance.  If your child says or does something indicating bias or prejudice, don’t meet the action with silence.  Silence indicates acceptance.  A simple command- “Don’t say that.”– is not enough.  First try to find the root of his action or comment:  “What made you say that about Allie?”  Then, explain why that action or comment was unacceptable.
  4. Seize teachable moments.  Look for everyday activities that can serve as springboards for discussions.  School-age kids respond better to lessons that invite real-life examples than to artificial or staged discussions about issues.  For example if your watching t.v. together, talk about why certain groups often are portrayed in stereotypical roles.
  5. Emphasize the positive.  Just as you should challenge your child’s actions if he indicates bias or prejudice, it’s important to praise him for his behavior that shows respect and empathy for others.  Catch your child treating people kindly, let her know that you noticed and discuss why it is a desirable behavior.

Let’s end today with two beautiful reminders on this subject.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  Galatians 3:28

“Love is patient.  Love is kind.”  I Corinthians 13:4

Here are some resources that will compliment the post this week.

14 Children’s Picture Books Exploring Race and Racism

Beyond the Golden Rule

How to Talk About Race With Your Kids

May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand.


Debra Smith