Quiet time. We all need it. Some of us feel the need more strongly, or find that we need more of it than others. My husband loves hours of alone time to work on things. I, on the other hand, go crazy without someone to talk to after a while. :-) But we both find that our whole day goes better if we can have 30 minutes (or more) first thing in the morning to quiet our hearts before God, hear from His Word, and mentally/emotionally prepare for the day.

I have read articles or books that encourage parents to get up before their children, even if that means setting the alarm for 4am, so that you have quiet time in the morning. I'd love to, but that just doesn't work for me. When I'm up in the night with a nursing baby or pregnancy insomnia, I have to get what sleep I can - even if it means rising with my toddler at the late morning hour of 6am.

Yes, I said 6 am. Unfortunately, my boys have always been early risers. I suppose it's probably our fault for making sure they're in bed by 8pm every night. But we value those quiet moments in the evening, too! :-) So they're up with the sun - or even before sunrise - and that means Daddy and Mommy don't often have quiet time before there are little people awake and demanding attention.

So what do you do? How do you have the quiet time you need to get your day started right when you have children - especially very young children?

Here are a few ideas that have helped us. Not all of these can (or should) be incorporated at once - there are different ideas for different stages of life, and you need to do what works for your family. But hopefully something here can be helpful to you!

1) Realize that there are seasons . . . Right now I have a 3-month-old baby. He wakes up when he's hungry. Some mornings he wakes up at 5 and then goes back to sleep til 8. Other mornings he wakes up at 6 and doesn't go back to sleep. I have to feed him when he needs to eat. I have to change his diaper when it's messy. But this is a season - I know from experience that he will grow so fast, and very soon he won't need my constant and immediate attention (even if he still thinks he does!).

2) It's good for children to wait and respect your needs too. . . . Obviously I'm not talking about constantly pushing your children away and ignoring valid, urgent needs that they have. Our children need to know that they are a priority to us. But they also need to know that they aren't the center of the universe. And what better way to instill a respect for God's Word than for them to see you put a high value and priority on it in your own life?


3) Make your children stay in bed until you're ready for them to be awake. Right now my 2 year old consistently awakens at 6:30, but he is not allowed to get up until 7am. He has learned to quietly stay in bed, sometimes talking or singing to himself, until it's time to get up. But our little people can't read a clock yet. So how do they know when it's 7am? There are some really nifty alarm clocks you can purchase that change colors at set times, so preschoolers know when it's time to get up. What we did, rather than spend money on a special clock, was hook up the nightlight they already used to a timer such as this one. We set the timer to keep the light on all night and also during their naptime. When the nightlight turns off, they can get out of bed. It works great! It allows me to have a more peaceful morning, and be ready to greet the boys with a smile when they come down the stairs. Gone are the days of being frustrated at interrupted quiet times!

4) Have "blanket time". What we used to do, when our boys were younger, (we started when they were 6 months and 2.5yrs) was to allow them to get out of bed, but then require that they have a quiet time as well. As soon as they got up, I set them each on their own blanket on the floor with a bottle of milk, two books, and a small toy. They were not allowed to get off their blanket until Mommy was done reading her Bible. This was a wonderful respite at that stage of motherhood, and sometimes we did it again in the late afternoon if they needed to settle down from wild play. We also found this to be a wonderful habit when we were in strange places or traveling - it provided security and a quick way to settle down to just pull out their blankets and give them a couple books!

5) Teach them to have devotions too. When I was a child, we had a morning "tea time". All of us were old enough to read, but under age 14 or so. We all woke up with an alarm at the same time and came downstairs immediately for tea. Mom would have the water hot, and we'd all sit around the kitchen table sipping herbal tea while we read our Bibles. I still have really good memories of those mornings - the whole family (except Dad, who left early for work) sitting around the table in cozy early morning stillness. The only sounds were turning pages and sipping tea. I think we tried every flavor of herbal tea we could find in those days! It helped instill the habit of spending some quiet time before starting the days' chores - a habit I'm still thankful for!

6) Be willing to let things wait.  If you get started on your day's to-do list before you take time out with the Lord, you'll find it harder to make that time fit in. I try to make my devotional time the first thing I do every morning, even if it means that breakfast is a bit later, or the children don't get dressed right away.

7) Don't be legalistic about mornings. Personally, I'm a morning person and I think it just starts the day out right to have a few minutes with the Lord before I start my work. But if that's just not working for you, find another time. Can you do it while the toddler naps? Or in the evening? Try to chose a time that you can consistently set aside almost every day.

What are your ideas? How have you managed to keep your "quiet time" quiet? Let us know in the comments!

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Several years ago, I heard a sermon preached on parenting according to Psalm 23. I did not take notes, and do not remember the details well, but it made a strong impact on my parenting, and also on how I looked at this Psalm. So I started writing this article several weeks ago, and since then a similar article came out on another blog that I follow. I considered deleting my writing, so that it didn't look like plagurism . . . but the way we applied the Psalm was very different, so I decided to go ahead and publish my article after all.

Psalm 23 for Parents

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. Are we meeting the needs of our children? Life overseas can make even meeting physical needs more challenging, but as parents we are pretty good at making sure our children are fed, clothed, warm, and healthy. What about their emotional needs? Do they feel 'want' in their souls? Or are their love-tanks full? It's so easy as parents to focus on the physical needs but neglect the emotional wants of our children. Try to see the world through your little one's eyes and consider what is important to them. When our children know that their needs - both physical and emotional - will be a priority to their parents, it gives them peace and security in spite of other circumstances.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. Is your home a peaceful place? Especially in the chaos of living overseas - transitions, new friends, new culture - your family needs the home to be a place of peace. What does this mean?

  • Find a routine that works for your family, so that your days are peaceful. When children know what to expect and what's expected of them, it brings peace to their hearts.
  • Teach your children to resolve conflict in a peaceful manner.
  • Notice when there is unrest in your children's hearts or actions, and help them resolve it.
  • Keep your heart peaceful (this is the hardest one, right?!) because your children take their cues from you.

He restoreth my soul: Provide soul-food for your children. I don't think this just means have family devotion time or make them read their Bibles (isn't that feeding their spirits?) Consider what ministers to their hearts - good books, creative activities, special family traditions, bedtime cuddles with Mommy or Daddy. Make sure you're feeding their souls.

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Lead,guide, show the way, lead by example. One of the struggles that adults, as well as children, face in moving overseas is discerning between good and evil. Things in your home culture that you never questioned suddenly look wrong . . . and you are faced with new things in your host culture that might seem wrong to our American mindset, but are actually not evil. Help your children learn to recognize good and evil seperate from the cultural trappings around them - whether at home or abroad.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; In a very real way, fighting sicknesses like malaria or typhoid, our children may walk through the valley of the shadow of death. But I think this can also apply to the countless losses, and the often unresolved greif that children deal with in moving overseas. It is impossible to keep our children from expereincing these things. But we can give them the support and direction and comfort and understanding that they need to get through it. Be WITH them in their valley.

Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. The rod and the staff were for protection, although also for direction and chastening. Are we protecting our children from the evil around them? This doesn't always mean sheltering them - but sometimes it does. Are we aware of the dangers, the temptations, the wrong influences, even the potential for abuse? Do our children have the comfort and security of our protection?

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.  Do you abundantly bless your children? Do they feel like their lives are full and overflowing with love and security? Do you give them things to be excited about, things to look forward to? Is your home a place of joy and abundance? This will look different in each family, but again, this is a focus on the emotional and spiritual needs of our children. Let's make sure their little lives are overflowing with peace and joy.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. What a promise! When we shepherd our children in the ways of God as described here, goodness and mercy will surround them, and they will dwell in God's house forever! What more could we want for our children?

Did any of these verses speak to you? What wisdom can you add from shepherding your children? Please share!

As my little guys get older, I am putting more thought into purposefully teaching them what they need to know - everything from ABCs and 123s, to life skills like zippers and going potty, to Bible stories and character qualities. I was listening to a "webinar" for moms, and the suggestion was made to focus on one character trait each month. I loved that idea, so that's what we're planning to implement - starting in November, which is just a few days away!

What better character trait to focus on in November than "thankfulness", right? I'm still working on ideas and gathering materials for how to do that, but here's one idea that I'm excited about. I think it will work well with my preschoolers, but I'm sure it would be great for older children as well: We're going to make a Thankful Paper Chain! So starting November 1st, every night at supper we're going to talk about one thing that we're thankful for. I will write that thing on a strip of fall-colored paper and start a paper chain. Instead of counting down to Thanksgiving, we'll count UP as our paper chain grows with things we're thankful for!

Sound like fun? Here are a few more ideas I found:

Thanksgiving rolls with a surprise inside

A "Gratitude Game" which comes with 30 ideas for teaching gratitude

A cute idea for an interactive object lesson (aimed at preschoolers)

When we get closer to Thanksgiving, these handprint spice turkeys look like a nice aromatic craft. :-)

Here are some writing prompts for older kids and also some for younger children

Memory Verses on Thankfulness:

This site has some excellent activities, printable worksheets for older children, and beautiful Bible verse printables on the subject of thankfulness.

Here are 30 Bible verses about giving thanks, with a question/discussion prompt to go with each verse.

Another printable list of verses on thankfulness, as well as a simple craft

Lastly, here is a whole study on thankfulness, with lesson plans, memory verses, object lessons, crafts and activities.

And what Bible stories am I planning to use?

The Israelites grumbling in the wilderness, from Exodus 15-17

The story of Namaan, from 2 Kings 5

The Ten Lepers, from Luke 17

David's Thankful Heart, from the Psalms

So what do you think? Do you have any activities or ideas for teaching your children to be thankful? What other Bible stories can be used to teach thankfulness? I'd love to hear your suggestions in the comments!

**None of these links are affiliate links. I do not personally endorse any of these websites.**

Family time is important no matter where you live. We all know how good it is for children to have positive memories of special family traditions and activities. But it seems harder to make time for it, and harder to find "fun" things to do, when you live overseas. Yet how much more important it is for your children to see you making the effort to put them first, even when it's not easy.

I was recently reading a book that had a couple great ideas, and that is the inspiration for this post. Most of these ideas are not original with me - some of these ideas come from that book and some are from other sources.

Ten Great Ideas for Family Fun:

  • Have a "brothers day" and a "sisters day" to go along with Mother's Day and Father's Day. Encourage your children to honor each other and plan a special day for each other.
  • Plan a once-a-month (or more often!) "YES day". Do you feel bad about all the times your children ask you to do an activity with them and you have to say "Not now" or "I don't have time today"? Instead, have them write those things down and put them in your "Yes day" jar. Then clear your schedule for a day (or at least an afternoon) and do as many of the things in the jar as you can.
  • Encourage your children to share their experiences and feelings with a simple supper time tradition. Go around the table having each person take a turn sharing the best thing from their day and the worst thing from their day. Make sure Mommy and Daddy share something too.
  • Use candles or a lamp to have a special candlelight supper. Children really love the atmosphere this creates! (If the electricity goes off at mealtime, don't start the generator. Make a fun night of it with candles and lanterns instead!)
  • Let your children make supper once a week - and let them plan the meal as well as prepare it!
  • Have a family talent show and/or a "show-and-tell" night. This is a great way to share in each other's interests and also learn to encourage each other. Again, make sure that Mom and Dad have something to share as well!
  • Make a family radio program. Interview different family members, read stories with dramatic sound affects, and do musical numbers. Record everything on your phone or laptop so that you can play it back later - and maybe share it with Grandma & Grandpa! :-)
  • Do a skit or play - and video it.
  • Have a family pajama party in Mom & Dad's bed. Eat a special snack while reading stories or watching a movie. OR have a family camp-out on the living room floor!
  • Celebrate strange holidays. There are all kinds of "national days" and 'holidays' that nobody knows about. You can look them up on "Days of the Year" websites like this one. Here are a few to get you started:
    • Sat. Sept 12th is Chocolate Milkshake Day. Who needs a better excuse to enjoy one?
    • Tues. Sept 15th is Make a Hat Day. Let your kids design their own headgear and photograph the results!
    • Wed. Sept 16th is Collect Rocks Day. What child doesn't love collecting rocks?
    • Tues. Sept 22nd is Elephant Appreciation Day. Make it a mini unit study if you're homeschooling.
    • Sat Sept 26th is Love Note Day. A great opportunity to write a love note to each of your family . . . and encourage them to do it too!
    • Thurs Oct 1st is Poetry Day. You can do all kinds of things with this one! Learn to write poems, memorize a poem, have a poetry reading show, or pick a favorite poem and do something around the theme of that poem.
    • Sat Oct. 10th is Cake Decorating Day. Get the whole family involved!


Do you have any family traditions or ideas for family fun nights? Please share them with us!