Searching for creative ways to play, pray, and serve with your family this Fall?
Let’s set aside the TV, phones, and other devices because Fall is just around the corner, offering crisp winds, punkin’ patches, football, and fur-lined boots. Yes, please!
Gather the family—whether two or twenty—and choose a favorite activity to boost your time together and with the Lord. After all, a family that serves, plays, and prays together stays together.
Creative Ways to Serve Together
🍁 Host a yard sale and give the proceeds to a church fund, missionary, or charity.
🍁 Donate to a local missions store. Skip the yard sale and spend time together as a family gathering clothes, housewares, and toys to donate. Make plans to stop by for a treat on the way home.
🍁 Treat an elderly or disabled friend to a yard cleanup day. Rake leaves, trim shrubs, or pull weeds. Yard work offers service opportunities for all ages. Want to go a step further? Leave a bucket of mums or another fall floral arrangement behind to brighten their porch.
🍁 Bake pumpkin bread together. Wrap up the loaf and attach a small note with Psalm 34:8, “Taste and see that the LORD is good.” It’s sure to brighten the day of a lonely neighbor or friend when you hand-deliver it with a smile.
Creative Ways to Play Together
As a family, brainstorm twelve activities that won’t require much prep or money. Write each one on a slip of paper and put it in a “Fall Fun” jar. Draw one slip (or more!) every week and decide the best day to carry it out. Some ideas might be:
🍁 Take a nature walk to engage your senses. What catches your eye? How does a particular leaf feel? (Steering clear of poison ivy, of course! Leaves of three, leave them be. Thank you, Girl Scouts.) What scent fills your senses? What do you hear? (Silence counts!) As you walk, gather color-coated leaves, rocks, acorns, and evergreen branches to decorate your mantle or tabletop when you return home.
🍁 Go on a picnic. Choose a lovely location. Maybe it’s beside a creek, on a mountain, in a park, or your backyard. Children can help plan the menu and prepare the food for the picnic. Or plan to pick up a bucket of chicken. It’s not the food that matters but the memories created. Don’t forget a blanket/tablecloth, utensils, napkins, and bug spray.
🍁 Game night! Whoever chooses this slip of paper can choose which game the family plays. Turn off the TV and turn on the laughter.
🍁 Popcorn & Puzzles. Create a designated table to work on a puzzle throughout the fall season. On the nights this slip of paper is drawn, plan to serve popcorn, lemonade, or any family favorite food/drink.
Creative Ways to Pray Together
Teaching our children that meaningful prayer can be simple and enjoyable is a gift they will carry throughout adulthood. Here are a few ways to get the creative juices flowing when praying as a family:
🍁 Walk & Pray. Before you set out as a family, discuss various ways to pray for your neighbors, such as God’s blessings, God’s healing, for them to draw closer to God, for wisdom as a family, etc. Perhaps some neighbors need specific prayer. Share how God is the only One who truly knows what each person or family needs but that He honors our desire to pray for them. Then, take a walk around your neighborhood. You can pray quietly as you pass neighbors’ homes or silently while keeping your eyes open. This helps children to learn that while closing our eyes during prayer helps us concentrate, it’s also okay and biblical to pray with our eyes open.
🍁 Journal as a family. Purchase or create journals for every person in the family. Set aside a few minutes each night to journal together. Consider lighting gas logs or candles while you write. Younger children will enjoy coloring during their time. Setting aside fifteen minutes each night (or weeknights/weekends only) will help develop a pattern that will bless your children for many years to come.
🍁 Create a prayer board. Hang a designated “Prayer Request Chalkboard” in an accessible place in your home. When prayer requests arise, write them on the board and pray for them after dinner.
In a culture defined by division, intentionally creating togetherness is refreshing.
So, what idea could be added to the above list, and/or which one will you try first? We’d love to know!
I hoped to grab a quick breakfast on the road so we could arrive at our family vacation spot earlier than expected, but Brian insisted we take advantage of the free breakfast at our hotel. (Brian also insists I missed my calling as an industrial engineer because I naturally gravitate to saving time. *wink*)
We took the stairs instead of the elevator on our way back to the room. (Trust me when I say you don’t want to join me in a confined space.) In a blink of an eye, the rubber tip of my shoe kissed the edge of the stair step, and down she went. It wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was downright painful from the get-go, but we enjoyed our vacation only to find out later I’d broken the shoulder socket.
One doctor appointment after another quickly ensued, leaving me exhausted physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Every week required a different appointment, a follow-up call, or a notification that a new bill had landed in MyChart. I needed restorative time with God but struggled to create it.
One night, however, while taking Henry the Doodle for a walk outside, it felt like the sky was magnetic. I couldn’t help but look up. And when I did, God used the glorious backlit heavens to remind me of His vast love, faithfulness, and purpose in every detail sifted through His hands for my good and His ultimate glory.
Threads of God’s restorative power began weaving its healing power through a weary soul that night.
“I lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-2
Jesus created restorative time with God, and we can too.
When people or circumstances look for us at every corner of our day, we can look up and find help in Christ. In my featured article on the Dawn app this week, I share how Jesus exemplifies this beautiful connection after experiencing an onslaught of expectations from those around Him. Hop over and join me there. It’s a short read, but one I pray will stick with you on those days when everything feels like it’s falling apart.
When was the last time you felt sought after by either circumstances or people and how did God help you?
Maybe your quiet time with God is exactly as you like (yay!), but if you could use a little boost before this new year rolls out, this post is for you.
To be clear, God and His Word never need a boost. The fact that we’re invited to meet with the same God who created man from dust, split open the Red Sea, and wrote words on a tablet with His finger out of love for His people, still stuns me to this day.
Many of us, however, sometimes require a boost. Human nature, changes in the schedule, health issues, and other circumstances can discourage and deflate us. And if we’re not careful, this discouragement can lead to avoidance thanks to the nagging whisper that says if you can’t do your quiet time “right” today, wait until you can. The first idea for boosting our quiet time below is fine-tuned for those kinds of days. After all, the word “boost” means to push upward and to encourage. So, onward and upward we go!
1. Focus on pivoting, not planning.
This general but oh-so-timely advice to focus on learning to pivot instead of planning came from Kendra Adachi, The Lazy Genius. It was a game-changer for this planner at heart. After all, lists are my love language. Most nights I plan out my next day…down to the hour. (Vertical calendar to the rescue!) It’s weird, I know, but structure is my friend. Having said that, my plans rarely all fall into place but doing so helps me use my time as wisely as possible. Even that, though, can be a trap if I’m not careful. And it’s probably why Kendra’s advice stopped me in my tracks.
Adopting the pivoting mindset is Biblical (holding everything loosely and remaining alert and willing to help others at a moment’s notice). It also boosts my quiet time with God by reminding me, especially on those mornings when we don’t meet, that all is not lost. Our time, instead, pivots because God is not limited by time or space, or anything else. Embracing this truth frees us from the self-inflicted guilt that can leave us spiritually paralyzed.
2. Take Meditation for a Walk
A quiet time with God is our life source because of two main components: prayer and reading God’s living and active Word (Hebrews 4:12). Adding time for meditating on the Word provides time for the Word to settle deeply in the soul like the snow that slowly absorbs into the ground. This can be done in a number of ways and one of those is to take a walk after our quiet time.
While reading scripture, pay attention to a word, verse, or verses you sense God is “highlighting” and jot it down on an index card or small piece of paper. Tuck it in your jacket, put on your walking shoes, and head outdoors (or if you’re like me, your indoor treadmill). There’s no right or wrong way, but here’s something I’ve tried:
Begin by acknowledging who God is — His characteristics, thanking Him for what comes to mind.
Read the word, verse, or verses you wrote down aloud.
Ask God what He wants to teach you through them as you continue walking, while also observing your surroundings.
Consider each word written down, one at a time, for a period of time.
Read the word, verse, or verses aloud again, asking God how to apply His truth.
Finish the walk thanking God for His Word and whatever else the Holy Spirit leads you to pray.
Keep the piece of paper with you throughout the day, speaking, reading, and praying over God’s words, blanketing the beauty of God’s Word over your soul.
If singing isn’t currently a part of your quiet time with God, it’s worth a try. Maybe it’s an entire song, or perhaps only a line or two. Whatever bubbles up from your soul before, during, and/or after, is a beautiful sacrifice to the One who sings over us. Zechariah 3:17 says, “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”
If a song doesn’t come to mind, make a quiet time playlist to sing along with, or lend your own melody to a psalm.
Changing up the scenery of our quiet time with God from time to time is good for the soul.
What about a local cafe? If yours isn’t quiet, pack the earbuds and read the Word on your phone. A nice addition is reading the daily devotion from the Dawn app. Throw in something to take notes, confident God has something to say during your time together.
Pack a picnic and head to a park where you feel safe to sit alone. It can be as simple as packing a canteen, fruit, and crackers. Follow the same steps as mentioned in the walk.
In your car. Pour a cup of coffee and head to a favorite spot in town. Maybe it’s a beautiful mountain range, or the perfect setting to see the sun climb or set.
In a garden. Depending on where you live, it might be difficult to find anything in bloom but even a sleeping garden can remind us of the life that brims just below the surface.
Hear me out on this one. A graveyard. My article on Christianity.com, “What Does the Bible Say about Visiting Graveyards” continues to hit top lists and was recently included in the “All-Time Questions Christians Asked in 2022” for a reason.
5. Invite a Friend to Join You
This is something I plan to try this year. Inviting another sister in Christ to join in a quiet time with God can’t help but give us both a spiritual boost. Hebrews 10:24 says, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds…”, and we all know and love the familiar verse in Matthew 18:20 where Jesus says that where two or more are gathered in His name, He is there with them.
One idea is to take turns reading verses in a particular scripture passage. Another might be to write out a prayer to God and read it aloud to each other, or bring a list of people you’re praying for and exchange it. There’s something powerful about hearing another Christ-follower praying over those who matter most to us.
What do a cup of tea and redeeming our time have in common? (Not a tea drinker? Stick with me.)
Years ago, in a charming old home on a corner lot, I invited small groups of women over for tea, conversation, and a focus on a particular book of the Bible or Scripture verse. There was also an annual Christmas tea and other types too. It was a sweet chapter in my life. (The subject of tea continues to pop up in the oddest of places these days, so who knows what God might be up to?)
Recently, while making a cup of tea, I realized there were moments in the tea-making process that matched some of my prayers from the morning. So I grabbed a piece of paper, jotted down the big ideas, and asked God to keep filling in the spaces. And this is what I’m sharing below (or here, if you don’t have time to read it now).
It’s a way to redeem a handful of minutes used for an ordinary morning act⏤an act that often flies by without notice.
Be very careful, then, how you live⏤not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15,16
Here’s the beautiful part: The redeeming tea process can be applied to many things we do throughout our day. More on that later.
For now, let’s start where any good cup of tea begins, with fresh cold water.
A Kettle and Cold Water
My soul thirsts for you, God you are the living God. Psalm 42:2
Physical dehydration is tricky⏤it can sneak up on us. Before we know it, our lips are parched and we’re lightheaded. Similarly, we can also find ourselves spiritually parched. One day, without notice, we realize our joy is lacking, we’re not making the wisest of decisions, and something is just off.
So, as the water comes to a boil, it’s the perfect time to pause and pray:
Lord, please reveal any signs of spiritual dehydration in my soul. Awaken me to Your glorious truths. You are the One True Living God and I want my soul to thirst for you with the same fervor as King David did all those years ago. Amen.
Prepare the mug
One cube or two? Ha! My mug contains stevia, and a Paris Tea teabag (thank you, Harney & Sons). Sometimes, depending on the day, I might scoop loose leaves into little disposable “pockets” instead. How do you prepare your mug?
So, then, prepare your heart and mind for action. Stay alert and fix your hope firmly on the marvelous grace that is coming to you. 1 Peter 1:13, The Passion Translation
“Stay alert” speaks to spiritual alertness. When I think of these two words, I think of memorizing Scripture, meeting with friends during the week so I can be alert to new guests in church Sunday morning, and asking God to put a guard on my mouth. What about you?
When we stay prepared for action, remain spiritually alert, and fix our hope firmly on the marvelous grace of God, lives change. Ours, and others too. We never know how our faith, no matter how small, can affect another person’s life.
So, as we insert the tea bag, squeeze the honey, and tear the packets, it’s the perfect time to pause and pray:
Lord, prepare my heart and mind for You and Your ways today. Help me to stay alert and spiritually engaged to see where I can join in what You’re doing around me. Amen.
Pour the Boiling Water
Feed the hungry and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an overflowing spring. Isaiah 58:10,11
Let’s be honest. There are times when we feel slap out of pouring ability. Other’s needs pop up when everything has gone wrong with our day, or we’re scraping by financially, or we’re mentally exhausted. In fact, we ourselves would welcome a little pouring into. I hear you.
And yet, it’s in those very moments when we feel depleted, but still offer someone else an oasis, that God’s power is put on display. In fact, Isaiah tells us that when we give at the most inconvenient times, God gives us refreshment and restoration. As we give, He continues to replenish.
Quick side note: Obviously, this doesn’t mean we’re supposed to say yes to everything we’re asked to do. Jesus didn’t help or heal everyone who had needs. It goes back to remaining spiritually alert, acting when God taps us on the shoulder or calls our name. There’s an old saying that goes we can’t help everyone, but we can help someone.
So, as we pour the boiling water into the mug, it’s the perfect time to pray:
Lord, show me where You would have me pour into someone, no matter how small an act, and give me peace when You have someone else in mind to help. Like a well-watered garden, help me to be an oasis, providing Your truth, love, and peace, as You lead. Amen.
Steep the Tea
Be still in the presence of the LORD and wait patiently for him to act. Psalm 37:7
Tea steeps anywhere between one minute to ten, depending on the type. So what if we took this time to simply sit or stand in the presence of the LORD? Maybe we’re currently waiting on the Lord for something specific:
Salvation for a loved one
A wayward child to return
A marriage to heal
Consider holding your hands out and palms up, as a posture of trust in God. We trust and we’re open to the Lord’s sovereignty.
As we wait for the tea to steep, it’s the perfect time to pray:
Lord, help me to wait patiently on You for ___________. Even when circumstances try to shake my trust in You, I will stand firm in Your presence. You are a good Father and Your timing is always perfect for my good and Your glory. Amen.
Holding the Mug
As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and forevermore. Psalm 125:2
As we surround the mug with our hands, may we be reminded that the One True Living God surrounds us. He is unchanging (nothing we do or don’t do will make Him love us more or less) and faithful (He has been faithful and He will be again). And because we are surrounded, we move through our day with fresh mercy, peace, joy, goodness, and every spiritual blessing pertaining to Christ. We lack nothing!
So, as we surround our mug with our hands, it’s the perfect time to pray:
Lord, may this tangible reminder of Your presence help me to lean into You, Your strength, and Your power, today. Amen.
If you’re not a tea drinker, what’s something you do on a regular basis that could be broken down into redeemable steps? Do you garden, or enjoy baking? Whatever it is, this same process can help awaken those tiny redeemable moments we have every day!
Did one of the above steps, in particular, speak to you? Share in the comments below and you’ll be entered into a random Starbucks gift card giveaway for a favorite cup of tea, coffee, or whatever else you enjoy at Starbucks. Enjoy!
Unexpected blessings catapult our faith into high gear and steady our walk of faith.
I didn’t realize how much so until last week when I attended the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. As I’ve done over the past nine years, I showed up eager to fellowship with friends, meet new ones, and hone my craft.
But this year was different. And it had nothing to do with Covid.
At registration, I planned to attend everything the conference had to offer. But soon after arriving, I sensed God might be calling me to something unexpected. My southern-fried raising tried its best to guilt me into doing what I always did because, well, it was the expected, “right” thing to do.
I’m learning, however, the only thing right thing to do is to follow God’s plans.
So, instead of attending the a-mazing large group meetings and classes, I took a seat in the Clouds coffee shop and simply made myself available, with a lavender latte in hand.
During my time in the coffee shop, God:
brought dozens of attendees by, making it possible for me to share wholehearted smiles and hellos. (We had a lot of new attendees!)
allowed me to pray with others right there on the spot.
let me be a listening ear to several who were carrying heavy burdens. More than once, someone said, “I’m so thankful you were here.” And in return, I echoed the same sentiment to God.
enjoyed the laughter that surrounded the shellacked table.
blessed me with friendships with the volunteers working behind the counter.
Looking back, I see how a few specific prayers prepared me to follow God’s leading, resulting in unexpected blessings:
Three Prayerful Ways to Prepare for Unexpected Blessings:
Pray for God’s agenda, period. In the weeks prior to the conference, I prayed for various things like staying healthy, the removal of any pride or selfishness from this ol’ heart, and being available for however He might want to use me as a conduit of His love and kindness.
Pray for bravery. Because we can all agree that following God’s agenda and not ours (or anyone else’s) isn’t for wimps.
Expect the Unexpected. I admit that when I first sensed the Holy Spirit pointing me to the cafe, I bristled a bit, knowing it might disappoint some people I love and respect. (My name is Cathy Baker and I am a recovering people pleaser.)
On the final day of the conference, a friend put this “Office of Cathy Baker” sign on the cafe table. Here’s one of fourteen pictures taken in my “office” *smile*. It’s a favorite because it includes Pepper Basham, along with her latest release, Hope Within the Pages (Doors to the Past).
(I’m sharing my various visitors to the “office” on Facebook over the next week or two. I’d love for you to stop by and say hello!)
Do you sense God might be calling you to serve Him in an unexpected, possibly out-of-the-norm kind of way? We’d love to know!
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Each day, holy pauses are shared in the form of prayer, God’s Word, gatherings, or free downloads that help us to connect (or re-connect) with God and others.
Whether they know it or not, today’s teenagers face a formidable enemy.
They always have. After all, it’s during the teen years we form friendships, notice every pimple, start dating, and unfortunately, come face-to-face with the mean girls. But our culture has never been as anti-Christian as it is today, dismissing (even ridiculing) truth and accepting happiness as its “holy grail”.
Teenagers need us to stand in the gap on their behalf. If not us, then who?
Having reflected on my own teen years and the damage left behind in my twenties, I had no wisdom to offer my own two sons. So when I became a Christ-follower at twenty-seven (they were two and six), one of the first things I did was to begin prayer journaling. In it, I prayed a variety of prayers for them, many of which have come to fruition, now decades later, thanks be to Jesus alone.
It’s never too soon to start praying for our children, and it’s also never too late.
The enemy aims for the mind because if he captures it, the rest is gravy. We can pray for a hedge of protection around their minds ⏤ what they see and listen to.
See: That they’ll have no desire to view pornography, and will be protected from seeing it or encouraged to view it. And if/when they view harmful things, that they’ll repent quickly and not believe the lie that it’s who they’ve become. May they “see” and believe in God’s nearness instead.
Listen: That he/she will have the desire to fill their ears with godly influences ⏤ people, music, podcasts, etc.
2. To know and believe they are loved by parents
Rebellion has been around since the first piece of fruit was plucked from the tree. Similarly, the enemy whispers in our teenager’s ears, does your mom/dad really love you, care for you, and have your best interest in mind? When praying for our teens, we join forces with the One who created them and knows how to fight this battle. We can pray for the truth they’ve been taught to penetrate the lies, for the Lord to surround them with godly people who will speak truth into their lives, and for them to see us as we are ⏤ broken and scarred, but relentless in our love for them. If we need to ask for their forgiveness or make a wrong right, then we humbly do this, demonstrating what love is truly about ⏤ not being right, but humble.
I wish I’d known as a teenager that remaining sexually pure was God’s way of protecting me, not depriving me. It’s why I fervently prayed for my boys to remain pure so they could enjoy all the benefits and blessings that naturally flow from obedience. We pray specifically for God to lead our sons and daughters to dates/spouses with the same desire to remain pure before they are married. That both would have a greater desire to honor God than temporary pleasure.
Yes, for our teens, but mostly for us ⏤ parents, grandparents, and influencers. For wisdom to know how to discipline, when to speak and when to remain silent, and utter dependence on God for it. (“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5)
5. To hunger and thirst for God
Because we know that if this happens, all else falls into place. (“Seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33)
For the month of December, Brian and I are planning to eat dinner by candlelight.
The table setting is simple and the food is far from fancy, but eating by candlelight slows down our pace and quiets the room, inviting prayer and good conversation to join us at the table. ...
#highpastures Christian Retreat Center provided a beautiful background for the #RidgewoodGreer women’s retreat this weekend, and the retreat team set a tone of togetherness that will linger long after we catch up with laundry and return to our routines.
Thank you @emilymhoffman @kgslice @shannycanny @caseyemarkham @smplumblee @abigail_stubelt Beth Martin, our small group leaders, and all those who prayed behind the scenes. Most of all, I’m grateful for our Heavenly Father, who blessed us through the teaching of His Word, community, laughter, prayer, and ways we may not realize this side of heaven. God is good and gracious to us all. 💗
#highpastures Christian Retreat Center provided a beautiful background for the #RidgewoodGreer women’s retreat this weekend, and the retreat team set a tone of togetherness that will linger long after we catch up with laundry and return to our routines.
Thank you @emilymhoffman @kgslice @shannycanny @caseyemarkham @smplumblee @abigail_stubelt Beth Martin, our small group leaders, and all those who prayed behind the scenes. Most of all, I’m grateful for our Heavenly Father, who blessed us through the teaching of His Word, community, laughter, prayer, and ways we may not realize this side of heaven. God is good and gracious to us all. 💗 ...
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